04.07.2018 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Towards an East African Regional Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy

Group photo of the EAC Regional Meeting

UNESCO sponsored the workshop organized by the East African Commission for Science Technology and Innovation (EASTECO), from 18 to 19 June 2018 in Kampala, Uganda, to provide technical and financial support in the policy development of an East African Regional Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI) .

The East African Community (EAC), along with their board members, organized a workshop targeting the six Partner States of the East African Community (Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda) universities and research institutions, as well as the Private sector to deliberate on an interim report for the regional Policy for Science Technology and Innovation (STI),

Key stakeholders, such as the National Councils of Science Technology and Innovation in each of the six countries, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Science Technology and Innovation in Uganda were present during the official opening ceremony, hosted by the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation in Uganda.

The East Africa Community (EAC) recognizes the fundamental role of Science Technology and Innovation for the economic development of the region. In accordance with the provisions of the same treaty, the 5th Extra-ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of States established the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) on 18 June 2007 as an institution of the EAC. EASTECO specific objectives include, among others, enhance cooperation in the development of regional science and technology policies; to encourage joint mobilization, use, management and development of resources, both material and human, for the development of science and technology in the EAC region, to promote scientific and technological innovation within Partner states As a regional body, EASTECO has to provide support mechanisms to facilitate the harnessing and application of STI at a regional level and at scale.

The development of a regional STI Policy falls within the mandate of the EASTECO, for it to be aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Agenda 2030, the African Union Agenda 2063 and its Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA), as well as the regional priorities of the EAC in its Vision 2050. For this exercise, UNESCO provided both financial and technical support for the regional STI Policy development process, through the engagement of a consultant to facilitate the process of developing a Regional Science Technology and Innovation Policy for the Region.

UNESCO's presentation highlighted the importance of including more young girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), aligning with the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality. A key role needs to be played by Youth, as users of the Policy and as innovators. The youth dividend- more than 50 % of young people live in Africa- must be harnessed for a vibrant STI sector for the region in the future. The participants underlined the need of including climate change in the policy as a critical issue.

Consensus was reached in the involvement of academia, the private and the public sector in the policy development. Other topics discussed included support for management of research on STI and the need for effective coordination of research, not just by research institutions, but also by Government themselves.

The East African Regional Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy will have to ensure that universities are enhanced to be centers for excellence for investments in education, technical competencies and training, particularly in science technology and education. Essential elements will be to update data on STI, policy making and strategic planning. UNESCO Institute for Statistics can provide statistics and gender disaggregated country specific statistics on STEM for the region.

UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa congratulated EASTECO for taking the initiative to develop a regional STI policy that is not just aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, but which identifies with the AU Agenda 2063 and the STISA 2024 as its documents of reference. The AU Science Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa fosters social transformation and economic competitiveness through human capital development, innovation, value addition, industrialization and entrepreneurship and places STI at the epicenter of Africa’s socio-economic development and growth.

With this development of a regional STI policy, UNESCO is planning to expand and pilot the Global Observatory Science Policy Network (GO-SPIN) at a regional level. GO-SPIN aims to fill this information gap by providing key information on STI governing bodies, legal frameworks, policy instruments and long-term series of indicators for evidence-based policy analysis, design and foresight studies. GO-SPIN is an online, open access platform for decision-makers, knowledge- brokers, specialists and general-public, with a complete set of various information on STI policies.

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