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Millennial Perspective on Science, Technology and
Development in Africa and its Possible Directions
for the Twenty-first Century
Hammamet, (Tunisia), 23–27 April 1999

Fifth General Conference of the African Academy of Sciences
Tunis Declaration


Contents
Preamble
Agenda for action
To our governments and the private sector
Science for sustainable development
Natural resource base
Science and the community
To our governments, the private sector and international partners
To the African Academy of Sciences and partners
To Africa’s international partners in development
Vision for the twenty-first century
Toward a culture of science
The androginization of science
Technology as an engine of transformation
The conscience of science

Preamble    Back to top

We, the Members of the African Academy of Sciences and the participants in the Fifth General Conference of the Academy, held in collaboration with distinguished invited friends of the Academy from Africa and elsewhere,

Acknowledging 

  • the relentless efforts of UNESCO for nearly four decades in initiating, catalysing, promoting and assisting African nations toward adopting science and technology (S&T) as a recognised tool in national development strategies, and
  • the initiative of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in urging for the integration of science in national development programmes, as boldly and succintly articulated in the Lagos Plan of Action of 1980;

Recognising that

  • the application of science is one of the most effective weapons in the struggle toward the reduction and eventually the elimination of abject poverty in society;
  • the value of science in achieving national development goals is even more evident now than has ever been postulated in the past, especially with regard to modern advances in informatics and biotechnology;
  • over the past three decades underdevelopment has continued to persist and even to worsen on the African continent, with negative effects on the population and the environment; and
  • the multiple constraints in Africa in the context of the new world order;

Appreciating 

  • the overall economic and social development of the African nations can easily and beneficially be accelerated through the adaptation, assimilation, internalisation, innovation and invention of new technologies; and
  • Africa’s historical background calls for renewed efforts for the renaissance of science in the modern civilisation, as we enter the next millennium;

Alarmed by

  • the continuing inability to transform the political promises made by our various OAU member states into fiscal science programmes, thus making it difficult for the implementation of the desired development objectives;
  • the blossoming campaigns insisting on the unconditional acceptance of the free market trends, while there is continuing unpreparedness for competition by most countries in Africa; and
  • the incessant transfer (and in many cases pirating) of valuable genetic resources from Africa (and the entire developing South) to the industrialised North;

Concerned that 

  • world peace can be at stake through the military application of science with deleterious effects on mankind, and also on the environment;
  • while the Internet is a major asset, it also carries certain risks;
  • while new knowledge in S&T is continually being created, countries in the South are generally incapable of tapping this resource, due to a multiplicity of factors (including low level of education and training, poor infrastructure and shortage of funds); and
  • while biotechnology can be a great servant of humanity, precautions also need to be taken against its abuse;

Conscious of

  • the role of education and science toward the promotion of a culture of peace and tolerance for enhanced economic and social development, especially on the threshold of the new millenium;
  • the growing unequal access to S&T knowledge which continues to widen the gap between and among countries of the North and those in the South; and
  • the fact that UNESCO has repeatedly encouraged a minimum expenditure of 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development in science as a necessary prerequisite to national socio-economic development;

Aware that 

  • indigenous knowledge in Africa remains unprotected and at risk of being exploited without benefiting the sources;
  • practitioners of indigenous skills in Africa (e.g. traditional healers) are, on the whole, unorganised and vulnerable; and
  • the recent campaigns for the protection of modern knowledge through intellectual property rights will have a negative impact on the needy developing countries in Africa;

Considering that 

  • access to scientific knowledge is part of the right to education, health and information, in accordance with provisions in the United Nations Charter on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • technology is the result of basic scientific research being applied to meet cultural ends and to effectively solve problems emanating from development implementation strategies, and
  • without a sound science base, technology cannot be effectively developed or meet relevant cultural ends;

Recalling that 

  • the history of world science clearly acknowledges and demonstrates Africa's unequivocal achievements in the renaissance of science and civilization of mankind; and
  • the modern available knowledge base is a result of voluntary contributions from sources scattered across all continents;

Worried at the

  • the precarious position accorded to the glaring lack of mechanisms for ensuring the protection of Africa's indigenous knowledge;
  • the vulnerable position of African languages and their underutilisation for S&T; and
  • the aggressively growing demand for recognising the protection of emerging technological and biological knowledge,

Realising that 

  • only in the very few African countries where rational systems of training and scientific research have been set up has there been meaningful socio-economic development;

Observing that 

  • most countries in Africa are yet to transform their political pledges into feasible and manageable science-led development programmes;
  • there is widespread indefensible hesitation by Africa's governments toward allocating adequate resources for the advancement of S&T; and
  • there is inadequate attention paid to the education of women in S&T;

Perturbed by 

  • the recurring threats to food security and the unfavourable health status of Africa's people; and
  • the existing inability to tame nature and to manage natural disasters by applying S&T;

Urged by 

  • the need to elevate the status of science as an integrated tool for accelerating the implementation of Africa's national development programmes; and
  • the widespread inner desire to ensure that science operates affirmatively and favourably toward achieving rapid socio-economic development for all our people;

Convinced that 

  • science and its applications constitute the essential basis for socio-economic development and for the improvement of the quality of life of society;
  • through partnerships with national, regional and international agencies, Third World countries can more effectively harness science for development;
  • the responsibility for the application of S&T is within the power of our governments and our people (especially Africa’s own scientists and technologists);
  • the future of development of ll our African nations depends upon our ability to harness the virtue of science; and
  • Africa's development can be accelerated through pragmatic national commitments, collaborative and partnership programmes :

Reaffirming 

  • the special responsibility of our scientific community in the development of Africa and the importance of women's participation in the process;
  • the essential contribution of scientific associations, and particularly of the learned communities, in the promotion of S&T; and
  • the necessity for increasingly involving the media in facilitating rapid dissemination of technical and scientific breakthroughs and know-how to society in appropriately simple language, excitingly and inspiringly;

Agenda for action

Hereby recommend the following proposals for urgent action:

To our governments and the private sector     Back to top

Science for sustainable development

  • Science education, at all levels, must be revamped, and with gender equity, so as to establish an atmosphere which will enhance Africa's capacity and capability to develop and sustain basic and applied sciences, toward meeting the needs of the twenty-first century.
  • Africa's nations must nurture an environment which will attract talent to the basic and applied sciences, and also recognise and reward scientists, as part of the long-term deliberate efforts to promote and retain the continent’s human capital.
  • All nations in Africa must embark on S&T policy development, including policies on empowering women in development, and the policies should be reviewed periodically and be integrated into national development policies.
  • Science must be harnessed as a means of economic growth, in accordance with acceptable moral and ethical obligations.
  • New and emerging fields such as information technology, biotechnology and material science, must be accorded due attention by curriculum developers at all levels of education.
  • Traditional sources of food must be complemented by modern scientific research and technological innovations, in order to ensure food security for all, during the early phase of the twenty-first century.
  • Health services for all must also be guaranteed during the early phase of the twenty-first century through judicious and equitable dissemination and application of new knowledge.
  • The transfer of environmentally friendly science-based technologies must be facilitated affordably to countries in dire need of development, in order to ensure a clean and sustainable environment.
  • International collaboration must be promoted in our efforts to attain zero emission goals by all our industries, thus protecting and enhancing sustainability in the global community.

Natural resource base    Back to top

  • Appropriate measures must be taken to ensure efficient utilisation of Africa's abundant natural resources, which include rich genetic resources in our oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, savannahs and geological resources, with due sensitivity to environmental protection.
  • New and emerging technologies must be adopted, in order to ensure an integrated biosystems approach that will facilitate sustainable utilisation of Africa's bioresources, following an environmentally friendly paradigm.
  • Sustainable development and utilisation of Africa's water resources, following regional collaboration efforts, must also be accorded due attention, in order to ensure adequate and safe water for all during the first few decades of the twenty-first century.

Science and the community    Back to top

  • The importance of science as a critical engine of economic development must be popularised, with a view to inculcating a science culture in our communities.
  • Vigorous campaigns to promote people's awareness of the role of science in solving community environmental, health and developmental problems must be initiated, encouraged, supported and implemented, with precautions being taken to ensure that the Information Revolution is not destructive of cultural and ethical values.
  • S&T should be androgenised in the sense of equally encompassing both men and women.

To our governments, the private sector and international partners    Back to top

Funding

  • The initial commitment to the financing of the development of S&T by each OAU member country must be aimed at achieving a minimum fund equal to 1% of GDP within the first decade of the twenty-first century. This will form a firm foundation that will attract and encourage the involvement of the private sector and benevolent organisations.
  • African nations must commit themselves to allocating financial resources for the development of S&T with a long-term goal of 3% of GDP, in keeping with what has been achieved by the developed countries.
  • The debt burden of African countries must be utilised in support of activities pertaining to the development of S&T.

To the African Academy of Sciences and partners    Back to top

  • The database of Africa's scientists already developed by the AAS must be regularly updated, as a pragmatic prerequisite for the establishment of national, subregional, regional and international information networks, which will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise , and the promotion of collaborative regional research programmes.
  • A Task Force must be established by AAS to facilitate and to monitor the implementation of the identified Agenda for Action.

To Africa’s international partners in development    Back to top

  • Collaborative programmes in S&T between various public and private organisations in Africa must be established, encouraged, consolidated and supported at national and regional levels, in order to promote the emergence of national and regional strategies which enhance South–South cooperation and which combine the participation of both men and women.
  • Sustained international partnerships for mutually beneficial development strategies and programmes must also be initiated and nurtured with a view to enhancing North–South cooperation and also sustained support from Africa's diaspora.

The present Tunis Declaration is hereby being submitted to UNESCO as a contribution of the African Academy of Sciences to the World Conference on Science being held in Budapest, Hungary, in June 1999.

Vision for the twenty-first century    Back to top
Toward a culture of science

  • When will calculus be accessible through Kiswahili? When in the twenty-first century will a class in chemistry be conducted in Xhosa?
  • For science to prosper in society, a whole new outlook needs to be cultivated, nourished and sustained. As she enters the new millennium, Africa needs to create and purposefully consolidate a culture of science ranging from new attitudes to new museums of science in her various societies.
  • For such a culture to be sustained, bridges needs to be built between popular thought and scientific ideas, and between the language of science and the discourse of everyday life. Africa needs to enlarge her people's curiosity about science and to inspire and motivate young men and women to pursue scientific enquiries.
  • When there is a culture of science, scientists are ready to learn from the wider culture and the wider culture learns to be science-friendly in its scale of priorities.

The androginization of science    Back to top

  • Will possession of a much larger proportion of women scientists and engineers in Africa reduce the brain-drain from Africa? Do women have stronger ties to where they come from? Are they less prone to migratory patterns?
  • The expected reduced brain-drain is only one of the spin-off benefits of the androgynization of S&T in Africa in the twenty-first century. Only 23% of Africa's girls get to secondary school and less than 3% make it to institutions of higher learning.
  • The gender gap is even wider in scientific and technical training where textbooks are notoriously irrelevant to the daily concerns of girls and women, and where cultural inhibitions divert women away from science-based laboratories.
  • ‘Androgynizing’ the world of S&T is a strategy of purposefully giving it both male and female characteristics after generations of a masculine-bias.
  • When more and more women become scientifically sophisticated, the culture of science will influence not only their own lives, but also the lives of their children.
  • Indeed, the ‘androgynization’ of science is an important precondition for true successful development and the nourishment of a culture of science.

Technology as an engine of transformation    Back to top

  • The Director-General of UNESCO recently urged African governments to set a minimum target of spending 0.4% of their gross national product (GNP) on S&T for the next five years on top of the 3% committed by the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) from its own funding for S&T in Africa.
  • Africa has always had material resources, but it has not had the expertise to control them. Africa does need what is called ‘a core of relevant scientists’ capable of making the most rational choices on the basis of the available and also of the emerging technologies. How best can we utilise Africas immense resources toward a brighter future for her people?
  • Technology has often been an engine of industrial and social transformation. Indeed Africa's own industrial minerals have propelled technological revolutions in other parts of the world.
  • It is time that Africa developed high levels of expertise commensurate with her material resources, so that both may best serve the African people and their destiny.

The conscience of science    Back to top

  • Ghana's Founder President, Kwame Nkrumah, used to say ‘Socialism without science is void‘. Was that his way of saying that science and social responsibility needed each other?
  • Others say that S&T should be treated just like market forces under liberal ideologies: never to be restrained. And yet however free the economic market place may be allowed to be, the human race cannot afford to have laissez faire science. Science has to have limits of conscience, especially in the new era of globalisation.
  • In the twentieth century, science has saved millions of lives through the control of diseases and the improvement of people’s living conditions. But also in the twentieth century science has destroyed millions of other lives through war, industrial pollution, ecological degradation and ‘smart weapons‘. In the twenty-first century the human race needs to get the equation more clearly on the side of saving and improving lives.
  • Africa should seek to play a dynamic role not only in scientific research, but also in the search for the ethics of science and, in the era of globalisation, also the ethics of expanding biotechnology.
Contact:    Back to top
For further information, please contact: uhnai@unesco.org 

 

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