18.11.2014 - Natural Sciences Sector

The Second African Forum on STI issues the Ministerial Statement of Rabat

Ministers signing Rabat Declaration, © UNESCO/Sarah Colautti

The Second Ministerial Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa concluded in Rabat on 17 October by issuing the Ministerial Statement of Rabat signed by over 20 African Ministers or their representatives in Science and Technology, Higher Education, or of Industry. The Statement of Rabat is a reaffirmation of Africa’s commitment to further entrench STI into the heart of political dialogue and into their national action plans and regional initiatives. The Statement comes two years after its predecessor, the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration, which was signed in 2012 in Nairobi at the First Ministerial Forum on STI in Africa.

The Ministerial Statement of Rabat aims to reaffirm the continuity of the original Declaration and puts steps in place to:

  • harmonize STI policies legislation, strategies and action plans for STI;
  • increase, better focus and channel applied research to solve practical problems;
  • strengthen links between research and enterprise development communities, and encourage youth (especially girls) to enroll in science and technology courses;
  •  reinforce the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM);
  • develop higher education and research, and facilitate the mobility of researchers, as well as the networking of African universities in STI policy and innovation management;
  • strengthen the catalytic role of public investment by mobilizing private investment through public-private partnerships; and,
  • encourage private initiatives and entrepreneurship in STI to accelerate inclusive and sustainable growth and also create jobs for the youth.

Second Ministerial Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation

Attended by over some 300 participants, the Second STI Forum gathered a wide range of African STI stakeholders over a three-day period to discuss the current state of STI in Africa, the main challenges, and the way forward in its development. Attendees included over 20 African ministers and/or their representatives including Angola, Botswana, Uganda, Malawi, Niger, Kenya, The Gambia, Tanzania, Benin, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Mauritania, Burundi, Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Sao Tome, Madagascar, Gabon, Egypt, Morocco, Rwanda, as well as African decision and policy-makers, science experts, members of academia, young entrepreneurs and innovators, international NGOs, and representatives from the private sector and civil society.

The Forum provided a venue for participants and experts to engage in a dialogue seeking to optimize STI for inclusive and sustainable development in Africa, at the dawn of the post-2015 Development Agenda. They shared experiences and identified similar obstacles and challenges that are slowing down the development of STI in their countries. Stakeholders and experts alike agreed that there is a need for better access to quality higher education and the pooling of resources between institutions. They also identified the need to better promote synergies between higher education and industry to strengthen research and enterprise development, as well as improving the mobility of scientists and guaranteeing the involvement of youth as key partners for development. The lack of networking, sharing of ideas and cooperation in STI between countries also was addressed as a challenge and the need to nourish stronger South-South, North-South collaboration and strategic partnerships.

The two-day breakout sessions and workshops (15-16 October) proposed discussions and opportunities to share ideas, best practices and innovations in the fields of water, energy, natural resources, education, youth and entrepreneurship, health, agriculture, and climate change. Sessions also emphasized the need to make informed choices about applications of ICT to improve development effectiveness and to develop skills, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The one-day Ministerial Roundtable (17 October) focused on the need for policy makers to engage in a dialogue with academia, scientific communities, civil society, African diaspora and youth. Ministers of various countries raised the same voice in favor of more STI and more efforts for a better governance of STI systems.

UNESCO strengthening its STI partnerships in Rabat

During the Forum UNESCO further strengthened, through parallel discussions and meetings, its partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).

The establishment of various joint projects was discussed including the creation of a STI African hub and a future virtual platform that will connect and facilitate the exchange of experiences, and sharing of knowledge between STI policymakers, researchers, scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and educators.

In addition, the joint project to create stronger STI policy university networks in effort to strengthen the capacities in STI policy and governance was also discussed. The project will be in collaboration with the Pan-African University, the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Tanzania, the University of Tunis, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), and supported by the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), and from l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie ( OIF).

During the Forum, UNESCO also underlined the importance of STI capacity building for Africa and its essential role for the creation of knowledge, economic growth, and for the sustainability of all development. UNESCO also highlighted the need for building solid STI systems in Africa. It is essential that STI and policy must stand at the heart of both national development strategies across the continent, and within the new global sustainable development agenda that States set to follow. UNESCO also pledged its support for the implementation of the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa STISA – 2024, adopted by African Union Heads of State and Governments last June, and designed to accelerate Africa's transition to an innovation-led, knowledge-based economy within the overall framework of the AU Agenda 2063 and for the need of Global Alliance for STI in Africa.

For more information about the forum, please consult the 2nd STI website: http://www.2ndstiforum.org

For more information please contact: Sonia Bahri (s.bahri(at)unesco.org) or the Section for Science Policy and Partnerships (sc.stp(at)unesco.org)

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