SED 2016: Experts urge Africa to put more resources in Science, Technology and Innovation

The third Senior Experts Dialogue on Science, Technology and Innovation and the African Transformation Agenda (SED 2016) ended in Pretoria with experts agreeing African governments need to do more to support innovation, especially by the youth in their respective countries.

The SED 2016, attended by experts from 21 African countries, including representatives from universities, Member States and cities, sought, among other things, to help African countries identify the main opportunities and challenges at different policy and organizational levels for leveraging and maximizing the rapid rise of cities, including the rise of mega-cities on the continent to drive innovation and invention.

(TOP: A screenshot of Jozi Hub, one of the several hubs of innovation in Johannesburg, Soweto and Pretoria visited by SED 2016 delegates).  

Kasirim Nwuke, of the New Technologies and Innovation Section in the Economic Commission for Africa’s Special Initiatives Division, said he was impressed by the level of debate during the November 2 – 4 meeting which ended with participants visiting several hubs of innovation in Johannesburg, Soweto and Pretoria, among them the IBM Research Lab at the Witwatersrand University, the Resolution Circle at the Johannesburg University and the Jozi SME hub in the Soweto Empowerment Zone.

“We have learnt a lot over the past few days and we shall write a report on the outcome of the meeting and send to you all,” M. Nwuke told the participants. “This dialogue is important for our continent and we thank you for participating. I benefited from this dialogue and I hope you did too.”

The 2016 SED was held under the theme “Cities as Innovation Hubs for Africa’s Transformation.

The three-day meeting, hosted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Republic of South Africa, identified key elements and issues, based on local as well as international experience, that African governments, along with their international development partners, can take into account in formulating action plans to turn their cities from manufacturing and trade hubs into innovation hubs and centres.

Ms. Zukiswa Ncunyana, Strategic Eexcutive Director for Research and Innovation in the office of the Executive Mayor of the City of Tswane in South Africa, said African cities were already innovative but sad the sad thing was that governments were still unable to close the gap between what they spend on research and development and the new innovations that can addresses some of the problems facing Africa’s cities.

“For me, one of the major outcomes of the meeting has been that innovations needs to be needs-driven, the grassroot level needs to be consulted,” she said. “Meaning local authorities and the central governments cannot just come up with policies without consulting us the people. All players are needed.”

Innovation, she added, should drive growth of the African cities, adding she was impressed by case studies presented during the meeting, in particular innovation hubs in Nigeria and how they have changed the lives of the ordinary people for the better.

“There’s a lot that is happening in Africa so we should not be hard on ourselves. We need to work together and scale-up on what is already happening,” she said.

Mr. Nwuke said a policymaker’s guide and recommendations for consideration and adoption by African governments, their development partners and the private sector, a research and analytical report on “Cities as hubs of Innovation in Africa” and policy briefs and working papers on STI on the continent, will be produced from the meeting.

The SED is an initiative of the ECA designed to support member States to leverage STI to drive the structural transformation of their economies.


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