‘All protocols observed’, is a term I first heard at this year’s GUBA awards when Jon Benjamin, the current British high commissioner to Ghana shared his experience of his introduction to the term when he first took up his appointment. So when the invited dignitaries at the #ScienceAfrica Unconference opened their talks with ‘All protocols observed’ it all made sense.
Planet earth had obviously put in a lot of thought and effort into organising the Unconference which was evident from the balanced calibre of attendees as well as the selection of dignitaries whiles also ensuring a gender balance.
Of the morning talks, one that particularly still resonates with me was Dr Amany Asfour, Chairperson of human resources, Science & Technology Cluster of AU- ECOSOCC (The Economic, Social and Cultural Council) who summed up Africa’s plight and the importance of embracing science and technology to help shift the balance on Africa’s economic and developmental narrative.
After observing all protocols, Dr Asfour reminded the audience of the significance of 2015 at the United Nations as marking a historic end to the African millennium development goals, marking the start of the sustainable development goals and for us in Africa it’s the start of the African 2063 development agenda. African 2063 development agenda, a 50years planning agenda for African vision is simply an agenda aimed at building a prosperous, peaceful, powerful, intellectual, inclusive and integrated Africa driven by the citizens of Africa.
Below is a summary of her thought-provoking questions made in the speech for us all to ponder over.
If we need this agenda action to be prosperous, then how can we have a prosperous Africa without economic growth? Economic growth is about investment in scientific research and technology to support our growing enterprises, to support our private sectors, to have our own agenda.
If we’re talking about Africa, Africa is the richest continent on earth but yet unfortunately now its people are the poorest of the world. Why?
As Dr Asfour rightly stated,
- We don’t invest in our African brains,
- We don’t invest in our Science and Technology,
- We don’t invest in our human resources including women and youth,
- We don’t manufacture our own drugs,
- We don’t add value to our raw materials.
Elaborating on the aforementioned she continued by asking, if we have the most valuable natural resources of the world and we are exporting as such and yet importing it after value is added then where lies the problem?
The key missing issue here is about how we link investment in our human resources including women and youth and promote our scientific agenda. We should get real economic growth through support of our human resources. Not a single continent or country has development without investment in science and technology.
If we are talking about Africa’s agenda and linking it with the sustainable development planning of which the first issue is about ending poverty and the second is ending hunger and food security, then how are we going to have food security without actually investing in science and technology or in agriculture and agro business?
How can the scientific agenda be really interpreted through the rural women?
What is the voice of the small farmer who is just in the rural area in Africa?
What does this agenda mean for her when she is selling her products and her products are rotten? What can she do? She doesn’t have any means of actually adding value to her raw materials, budgeting, branding, designing, access to market – This is about having a scientific agenda.
If we’re talking about energy how can we really make sure that there is energy everywhere in Africa? Simply by linking it with our industrialisation agenda because industrialisation is about science and technology. How can I have industrialisation without having energy in the factory or in the Universities?
Linking it to the health sector, we have seen that HIV aids, tuberculosis and malaria are still deadly in Africa yet we don’t manufacture our retro viral drugs, we import them. We don’t actually have our own drugs.
To tackle these issues, we have to really fill the capacity of our human resources including healthcare professionals. This is about science and technology.
How can we promote our human resources including women and children to be able to live the agenda of Africa 2063?
If we are talking about a prosperous Africa, we are talking about intellectual Africa.
How can a young scientist just graduating from University link to the private sector? By investing in science and technology. If those young scientists have an innovative idea, they don’t have the means to invest in it, to finance it and actually to make sure that it is a commercial product. We have to link them to finance, we have to help them with patency because they don’t know how to patent that innovation. It has to be a collaborative effort. A collaborative effort between our university and research centres. Between our policy leaders and African leaders.
After her many thought provoking questions to our leaders, businesses, investors, policy makers institutions to name but a few, Dr Amany Asfour concluded by saying;
“Many times I challenge our African leaders because they say, we want Africa to be free from hunger, free from disease, free from poverty, and I say NO our leaders we want Africa not to be;
- free from hunger but well nourished,
- not free from illiteracy but well educated
- not free from poverty but wealthy ,
- not free from disease but healthy.
This is how we want our Africa”.
To have our African continent prosperous and peaceful with intellectuals, we have to invest in science and technology we have to invest in human resources and finally that’s why we are here to see how we can join efforts to help our African continent, how we add value to our raw materials and how we can invest in science and technology.