Perspective on Science, Technology and
Development in Africa and its Possible Directions
for the Twenty-first Century
Hammamet, (Tunisia), 2327 April 1999
Fifth General Conference of the African Academy of
Agenda for action
To our governments
and the private sector
Science for sustainable
Natural resource base
Science and the community
To our governments, the private
sector and international partners
To the African Academy of
Sciences and partners
international partners in development
Vision for the twenty-first
Toward a culture of science
The androginization of
Technology as an engine of transformation
The conscience of science
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,
- 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;
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
Africas historical background calls for renewed efforts for the renaissance of
science in the modern civilisation, as we enter the next millennium;
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
the incessant transfer (and in many cases pirating) of valuable genetic resources from
Africa (and the entire developing South) to the industrialised North;
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;
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
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;
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;
- 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
- without a sound science base, technology cannot be effectively developed or meet
relevant cultural ends;
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,
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;
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;
- the recurring threats to food security and the unfavourable health status of Africa's
- the existing inability to tame nature and to manage natural disasters by applying
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;
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 Africas 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 :
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
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 continents 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
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
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
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
Natural resource base
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
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
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.
Science for sustainable
governments, the private sector and international partners
- 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.
African Academy of Sciences and partners
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.
Africas international partners in development
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 SouthSouth cooperation and which combine the participation of both men
Sustained international partnerships for mutually beneficial development strategies and
programmes must also be initiated and nurtured with a view to enhancing NorthSouth
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
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
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.
as an engine of transformation
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
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
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 peoples 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
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