Role of Science and Technology in
Zomba (Malawi), 711 December 1998
First International Conference
Best presentations by young scientists
The present Conference was organised by the Faculty of Science of
Chancellor College and by the Scientific, Technical and Research Commission of the
Organisation of African Unity (OAU/STRC) based in Lagos. Assistance in terms of logistics
was provided by a Local Organising Committee comprising representatives of the University
Office, Chancellor College, Bunda College, the Polytechnic, College of Medicine, Kamuzu
College of Nursing, Forestry Research Institute of Malawi, National Research Council of
Malawi (NRCM), Malawi Industrial Research and Technology Development Centre (MIRTDC), and
Malawi National Commission for UNESCO. The committee was ably chaired by Dr J. D.
K. Saka of Chancellor College. The organisers were further assisted by Dr. E.
Fabiano, the Conference Advisor, and by members of the International Advisory Committee.
The Conference was funded by a number of international and local organisations. The
following international organisations either sponsored some participants or supported the
activities of the organising committee: OAU/STRC, UNESCO, United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF),
British Council and Commonwealth Science Council. The following local organisations also
contributed by either sponsoring participants or meeting some organisational costs:
University of Malawi, Malawi Environmental Monitoring Programme/University of Arizona, The
Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs, The National Research Council
of Malawi (Agricultural Sciences Committee), Chemicals and Marketing Co. Ltd, COMESUN,
David Whitehead and Sons, Rab Processors, Malawi Distilleries, Universal Industries,
Mapanga Furniture, Mapanga Sweets, Mapanga Dream Foam, National Family Planning Council,
MD Initiatives, Chiume Consultants, Nation Publications Ltd., Packaging Industries Ltd.,
City of Mzuzu, Municipality of Zomba and MIRTDC.
The main objective of the Conference was to promote the role and
importance of science and technology (S&T) in socio-economic development. Special
attention was paid to the following themes:
- industries and scientific research;
- making S&T relevant to society;
- highlights of research results on mathematics, agriculture, environment, health
sciences, natural and applied sciences;
- female participation in S&T;
- youth involvement in S&T; and
- dissemination and utilisation of scientific results.
The Conference was officially opened by Hon. Mayinga Mkandawire,
M.P., Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs; the welcome address was
made by Prof. Brown Chimphamba, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malawi, while Dr.
Robert Mshana, the OAU/STRC Acting Executive Secretary, made the keynote address.
A total of 83 papers were presented on Agriculture and natural
resources_(18); Environment_(16);__S&T for society_(16);_Health
sciences_(8);_Dissemination of scientific results_(7);_Industries and scientific
research_(7);__Female and youth participation in S&T_(6);__ Policy
The Conference had three main outcomes, namely:
draft conference recommendations (see below);
formation of an Advisory Committee to counsel OAU/STRC on how it can
create wealth for Africa. The interim Secretariat will be located in the Faculty of
Science of Chancellor College. It was observed that OAU/STRC would include later other
eminent African scientists in the Committee, whose full composition would be known after
the next meeting;
formation of an Independent Advocacy Committee on S&T in Malawi
to follow up on Conference recommendations. The Committee comprises members from the
university sector, industry, research institutions, the government sector and the public;
its activities are expected to be funded by industry and government.
The Conference came up with 24 draft recommendations, viz:
There is a need to encourage consultations, linkages and networking
among all S&T players including universities, research institutions, industry,
multilateral organisations, professional associations, donors, non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) and government departments and the community to maximise efficient
use of resources.
Universities should have research policies that are incorporated into
national S&T policies. The university research policies should be formulated to
promote research and stimulate postgraduate studies, as well as encourage researchers to
tackle industrial problems. Emphasis should be on forming multidisciplinary research
Measures have to be put in place to motivate scientists so that they
are retained in their countries to reduce brain drain.
There should be continued and increased government support for
S&T to meaningfully contribute to socio-economic development
There is an urgent need to institute capacity-building programmes in
emerging technologies such as biotechnology and information technology and put in place
policies geared to promoting their development and application.
S&T stakeholders should form professional groups, locally,
regionally and internationally. These groups should receive institutional support.
There is a need for constant updating of inventories of S&T
Ensure that thorough consultation is done before formulation of
S&T policies. There is a need to develop implementation and monitoring strategies. The
policy should ensure that the private sector contributes to funding of research and
development (R&D). The government allocation to R&D should be at least 1% of gross
domestic product (UNESCO). The S&T policies should be enacted. S&T policies should
be integrated in socio-economic development plans.
Teaching of science should be done at all levels of education.
Technical education must be improved to cope with technological
The participation of women and youth in decision-making should be
R&D on high priority areas should be emphasised.
There should be a holistic approach to S&T to include the social
S&T should encompass gender aspects.
There is a need to conserve indigenous knowledge and biodiversity and
sustainable exploitation of local resources.
Scientists should be actively involved in the dissemination of
S&T programmes should aim at wealth creation. Business incubation
centres should be established.
Countries should endeavour to establish stable and effective S&T
institutions that should provide clear policy direction.
Science curriculum should be reviewed based on thorough need
assessment. The curriculum should include courses on S&T management and marketing.
Encourage the use of local expertise.
S&T policies and visions should focus on a few critical issues
that will have a multiplier effect on the economy. Programmes/projects should be
There should be an all-out effort to inculcate science culture.
Prototyping should be encouraged as a step toward commercialisation.
There is a need to strengthen patent and intellectual property laws
and scientists must strive to publish and patent major findings and technologies.
It was agreed that the final recommendations would be formulated by the
Secretariat and would be included in the conference report to be prepared by the
University of Malawi.
by young scientists
Three young scientists were recognised for making outstanding
presentations to the Conference after a secret independent assessment done by two foreign
professors, lgene of Nigeria and Hudson of the UK. The OAU/STRC agreed to prepare special
certificates for them.
The Conference was closed by Dr E. Chilembwe on behalf of the
Secretary for the National Research Council of Malawi. It was noted that the next
conference would be held in 1999 in a French-speaking country and in a region other than
East and Southern Africa.