The University-Industry Partnerships (UNISPAR) programme in Africa in the 1990s
In the 1990s, UNISPAR Africa tapped the scientific expertise of African universities for the development and production of food, water and energy geared to the basic needs of rural populations.
In 1994, the Director-General of UNESCO launched the International Fund for the Technological Development of Africa, to which UNESCO contributed US $1 million to fund projects under UNISPAR Africa. The Fund was used to set up a small grants scheme More than 20 such projects from Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire. Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe were selected for implementation. Almost all of the approved projects dealt with technologies for improving the quality and quantity of staple foods and for generating employment in small enterprises and in rural areas. These resulted in such products as a wood adhesive bio-fertilizer for nitrogen fixation, improved bananas and feed for stock, biogas technology, commercial use of medicinal plants and so on.
At the first UNISPAR Africa Conference in Arusha (Tanzania) on 5-6 December 1994, nine joint university-industry projects were approved.
The second UNISPAR Africa Conference, held in Ghana on 13-17 September 1995, selected 11 joint university-industry projects. The 20 projects approved in 1994 and 1995 received an allocation of US $260,000. In all, UNESCO received more than 300 research project proposals.
The third UNISPAR Africa Conference was organized in conjunction with the World Congress of Engineering Educators and Industry Leaders in Paris (France) on 2-5 July 1996. This last Conference offered an excellent opportunity for peer review of African scientific research projects and an exchange of views between African scientists and international engineering educators and industry leaders.
It also resulted in collaboration arrangements for joint research between African scientists and their counterparts from the developed countries and the identification of projects to be launched in 1997. Projects involving university-industry co-operation were also provided with financial support – both under UNESCO’s regular programme and from extra-budgetary resources - for the commercialization of research results. This resulted in the commercialization of brake pads from sawdust (Nigeria) and the production of rhizobium inoculants for use in low potential areas of Kenya. The project was run by UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Science in Nairobi (Kenya) in close cooperation with the African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI); the Network for Valorization of Plant Materials in Africa (VPMA), the UNESCO National Commissions; national universities and local industries.
Under UNISPAR Africa, training workshops were also run on such topics as sustainable development and the maintenance and repair of scientific equipment, accompanied by the production of a manual. A database on Women Engineers and S&T Institutions was also developed and a newsletter was published in 1998-1999.
The Director-General of UNESCO decided to dissolve the International Fund for the Technological Development of Africa in the late 1990s but the UNISPAR programme has continued to the present day.
For details of the UNISPAR programme since 2002, click here.