Capacity-Building in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy in Africa

©‎ J. Chaves, IRRI scientist in a farming school in Burundi.

Science, technology and innovation (STI) are the raw materials for competitiveness and productivity and, therefore, key elements for reducing poverty, promoting social inclusiveness and achieving sustainable development. Reaping benefits from STI efforts is not a trivial task, countries require far more than technical or scientific knowledge; they require strategic, managerial and policy making skills that allow them to create well-encompassed systems with governing structures capable of designing country strategies and aligned policies and policy instruments.

UNESCO has been working on this front for decades. This Spanish funded project, which ran from April 2011 to December 2014, was the continuation of these efforts. The project was an effort to respond to more than 20 official requests for assistance from African governments, which UNESCO received between 2009 and 2011, to review and/or formulate effective STI policies and strategies and action plans to ensure their implementation.

The project involved countries from all parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The geographical distribution of the participating countries was the following:

Interestingly, the assistance requests evidenced lack of institutional capacity, skills and experience in STI policy and management and the need for UNESCO to accompany STI stakeholders in their efforts to manage and govern STI.

Therefore, the project adopted the Global Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Instruments (GO-SPIN) methodology as a basic tool to achieve the three main original objectives of the project:

  1. Improving the conditions and building mechanisms for innovation;
  2. Building regional capacities in evidence-based STI policy formulation;
  3. The establishment of an African Virtual Campus to improve science and technology education.

The results of the project greatly outgrew its initial expectations.The original proposal was aiming at formulating/reviewing STI national policies and action plans, but did not expect to go into the holistic diagnosis or mapping of the STI national systems that was done in 11 countries and in the design of concrete policy instruments (including legal instruments and monitoring tools) or governing bodies for their implementation, as indeed happened. This great contribution was driven by the adoption of the UNESCO’s Global Observatory for STI policy instruments (GO-SPIN) methodology and evaluation tools, which provided the means to identify countries’ gaps and develop actions plans to address them. The final declaration of the 2012 African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology (AMCOST V), held in Brazzaville (Congo) on 12−15 November 2012 acknowledged it and explicitly requested to coordinate efforts between the African Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation (AOSTI) and the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators ASTII programme for the integration of African countries in GO-SPIN.

To this end, in 2012 and 2013, three sub-regional training workshops (in English, French and Portuguese) were organized in cooperation with AOSTI and ASTII to train project beneficiary countries on how to fill in the GO-SPIN survey to map their national STI system and enter the GO-SPIN platform. Proved as a powerful tool for the design and evaluation of tailored-made STI policies and policy instruments, UNESCO has been able to launch under this project, three complete publications (GO-SPIN country profiles) based on the surveys information of BotswanaMalawi and Zimbabwe. More over, 11 countries have completed their GO-SPIN survey and will be integrated in the online GO-SPIN platform: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

To sum up, the outcomes of the project can be summarized as follows:

  • The participating countries recognise STI policies and policy instruments as fundamental tools to attain sustainable development. Consequently, STI policy is considered at the highest strategic level as being a critical component of overall development policy.
  • The project produced a framework for STI policy analysis, design, review, implementation and evaluation, promoting evidence-based decision making.
  • Through the GO-SPIN surveys the project was instrumental in generating, collecting and analysing innovative information on STI policies, operational STI policy instruments, STI legal frameworks, STI national systems, organizational charts, and STI priorities;
  • The project provided the opportunity to share information and best practices on national STI policy design and implementation, and on lessons learned for ensuring increased effectiveness in STI policies;
  • The project convened various stakeholders including government, parliaments, scientific institutions, universities, parliaments, private sector, civil society for dialogue on important STI issues;
  • The project enhanced policy coordination and fostered cross-sector policy cooperation as National task forces with STI ministries, sectorial and planning ministries, academia, statistics office and parliament were established and trained;
  • The project achieved stronger partnerships and promoted synergies between STI policy networks and other partners including AOSTIAUISESCO, universities, etc.

The main project achievements (pdf)

Follow-up project

After the successful completion of the project, the Spanish government kindly agreed to finance a follow-up project entitled "Support to the development of legal frameworks, policy instruments and governing bodies for the effective implementation of national Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policies in Africa". This project aimed to formulate concrete tailored-made policy instruments to address the gaps of the STI national systems in four countries: Equatorial GuineaNigerMozambique and Senegal.

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