The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was launched in 2001 as a comprehensive, integrated initiative for the revival and sustainable development of Africa. NEPAD is a programme of the African Union grouping 53 countries.

Within NEPAD, African statesmen call for greater investment in S&T. Were the target set by NEPAD in 2003 of devoting 1% of GDP to R&D within five years to be realized, it would constitute a mini-revolution for the African continent, where most countries devote less than 0.3% of the public pursue to R&D.

It is not the first time that Africa's leading politicians have voiced their 'unflinching' support for such efforts. In 1980, there was the Lagos Plan for Action; in 1987, the Kilimanjaro Declaration; in 1988, the Khartoum Declaration; and, in 1998, the Addis Ababa Declaration. All called on Sub-Saharan African nations to turn to S&T as primary sources of economic development.

What makes NEPAD's strategy different? Firstly, the times. A steep decline in many economic and social indicators is a stark reminder that urgent action is needed now more than ever before. Secondly, the strategy lays heavy emphasis on human resources development as a prerequisite for science-based development and thus takes a long-range view of how progress should be defined and achieved. NEPAD emphasizes sensible goals and makes provisions for on-going evaluations and adjustments. Although the language may not be as dramatic as the statements associated with previous reform efforts, the prospects for success - albeit modest success - are greater. Thirdly, NEPAD views the development of S&T as a tool rather than a goal, directly tying investments in S&T to such immediate needs as poverty elimination, improvements in public health, access to safe drinking water and environmental protection.

NEPAD's plan of action for S&T acknowledges that African science and scientists are currently cut off from the economic system. The plan of action consequently focuses on science policy development and flagship programmes that include biotechnology, indigenous knowledge and technologies, ways of developing university-industry partnerships, technology incubators, innovation hubs and training in science policy. This plan of action was adopted by a ministerial conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2003, which in parallel established a Council of Ministers to serve as NEPAD's policy-making body.

NEPAD is encouraging both a dialogue between stakeholders in S&T and the elaboration of an appropriate regulatory and policy environment to nurture private investment in R&D. Regional centres of excellence are being promoted as a key strategy for boosting African collaboration. At the same time, NEPAD is fostering a genuine spirit of partnership which revolves around South-South and North-South collaboration. The Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2004 between NEPAD and the International Agricultural Research Centres of the CGIAR points in that direction. (More)


Source: UNESCO Science Report 2005

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