Ethiopia holds inaugural science congress

The first Science Congress of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, meant to assess the overall status of science and technology in the country and identify major gaps, was held in Addis Ababa from December 15 to 16.

Participants at the opening session of the congress

The conference, with the theme, “Science and Technology – Survival of a Nation,” also aimed to seek the way forward in advancing science and technology and its application at country level, thereby enhancing commitments to science and technology (S&T) by government, universities, research institutes, professional societies and the private sector.

While opening the conference, Ethiopia’s Science and Technology minister, Mahamoufa Ahmed Gaas, said science and technology had become the pillar of the survival and prosperity of any society.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the developmental gap observed between the developed and developing nations is a direct reflection of the variation in the capacity to generate and apply scientific and technological knowledge for socioeconomic development,” said the minister.

Dr Aida Opoku-Mensah, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) director of ICT, Science and Technology (ISTD) division said that science and technology could be used to effectively respond to many challenges that Africa is facing, including widespread hunger, poverty, youth unemployment and chronic diseases killing more people each year.

“The growth of merit-based science academies in Africa, such as the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, is of paramount importance not only in provision of independent, evidence-based and credible advice to policy-makers, but also to ensure integration of science and technology in economic and social development plans and strategies,” said Dr Mensah.

Ethiopia has projected an increase in investment in research and development of up to 1.0 per cent of the country’s GDP by 2015 and also plans to prioritize enrolment in higher education and further encourage up to 70 per cent of new students to enroll in natural sciences.

Ms Opoku-Mensah urged the congress to assist the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences position itself and set the country’s Science, Technology and Innovation vision with achievable targets in addressing the current socio-economic challenges and meeting its aspiration of becoming a middle income country by 2025.

Over 300 scientists, researchers, students, policy- and decision-makers, representatives of regional and international organizations and the private sector attended the Congress.

The congress addressed key issues such as promotion of a culture of science in Ethiopia, the need to establish research universities and how they should be organized and how to set the stage for adaptive research and technology transfer.

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