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Role of Science and Technology in Development
Zomba (Malawi), 7–11 December 1998

First International Conference

Contents
Introduction
Objectives
Opening session
Papers
Conference outcomes
Draft recommendations
Best presentations by young scientists
Closing remarks
Contacts

Introduction    Back to top

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 Children’s 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.

Objectives    Back to top

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.

Opening session    Back to top

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.

Papers    Back to top

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 formulation_(3);_and Geology_(2).

Conference outcomes    Back to top

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.

Draft recommendations    Back to top

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 groups.

  • 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 resources.

  • 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 changes.

  • The participation of women and youth in decision-making should be encouraged.

  • R&D on high priority areas should be emphasised.

  • There should be a holistic approach to S&T to include the social sciences.

  • 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 research results.

  • 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 need-driven.

  • 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.

Best presentations by young scientists    Back to top

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.

Closing remarks    Back to top

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.

 

Contacts    Back to top
For further information, please contact: nairobi@unesco.org

 

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