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Science and Technology in the SADC Region
for the 21st Century

Roodevalei, Pretoria (South Africa), 20-21 April 1999

Meeting of the Directors-General/
Heads of Science and Technology in the SADC Region

Executive Summary

 

INTRODUCTION

The present Meeting was organised jointly by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) of South Africa and by the UNESCO Office in Pretoria.

Science and Technology (S&T) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) falls under the human resources development (HRD) Sector. The focus of the HRD Sector is education and training and consequently S&T policies and systems have not received the necessary attention. This led to the idea of bringing together Heads of S&T in the SADC region to deliberate in how they could create an enabling environment for improved S&T cooperation in the region.

The meeting also aimed, on the one hand, to assist UNESCO with the reviews of S&T systems in Africa in general and in the SADC region in particular, and at seeking recommendations from the SADC countries on the issue of S&T policy that could form an input to the World Conference on Science to take place in Budapest in June 1999.

The visit of the DACST Director-General to UNESCO during June 1998 gave further impetus to the meeting, the objectives of which were:

  • to develop a common understanding of the value S&T have for the region;
  • to develop a process by which S&T policy issues of mutual interest could be discussed and policy initiatives be prioritised and jointly undertaken;
  • to build human resource capacity for R&D in the region;
  • to develop a SADC position paper for the World Science Conference.
  • OPENING ADDRESSES

    The Meeting was opened jointly by Mr L Honwana, Director of UNESCO in Pretoria and Dr R Adam, Acting Director General of the DACST of South Africa.

    Mr L Honwana – Director UNESCO, Pretoria, South Africa

    The delegates were welcomed and the importance of the meeting as the first step in promoting the reunion and collaboration in S&T policy in the region was emphasised. The meeting was the result of the strong collaboration that exists between UNESCO, Pretoria and the DACST. The two institutions have undertaken a number of joint projects and have organised a number of common meetings in the past.

    The MINEDAF VII Conference, as well as the offer made by the South African government for the training of students from other countries in the region in South Africa’s higher education system, were reiterated. The follow-up to all recommendations accrued from the Meeting was promised.

    Dr Rob Adam – Acting Director General, ACST, South Africa

    The delegates were welcomed and the welcome of the Minister and Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology were extended to the meeting. The importance of S&T for development and the need to develop appropriate policies in the context of a changing S&T policy paradigm internationally and increasing globalisation were emphasised. Aggregation of regions (e.g. European Union (EU), Asia-Pacific countries, etc.) and the development of collaborative efforts are international trends underpinning this meeting. The South African thoughts on the development of larger Southern African programmes and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR’s) research on the distribution of pollutants in the region and the conducting of geo-mapping activities of the Geosciences Council were referred to.

    The ultimate objective of the meeting he identified was the development of a framework for making common decisions. He concluded by emphasising that S&T could have a huge impact in the region, depending on the way that it is organised.

    COUNTRY PRESENTATION
    S&T and R&D in Botswana

    Mr D Inger

    The S&T system in Botswana and the new S&T Policy recently approved by Parliament were outlined. Botswana does not have a Ministry or Department of S&T. This responsibility is delegated to the Botswana Technology Centre. The new S&T policy envisages the re-organisation of the S&T enterprise in Botswana and recommends the establishment of three new institutions - the National Commission on S&T; the Council for Research, Science and Technology; and the National Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research.

    The government has set aside P56 million for funding S&T activities in the country and for implementing the new S&T policy. The final structure of the S&T system to be adopted will depend on the work of consultants to be appointed soon and on the opinions of the country’s stakeholders. Lack of R&D expertise was mentioned as the main problem in the country.

    Overview of the S&T system in Lesotho

    Ms H Mhlanga/Ms M Williams

    The Lesotho delegates outlined the country’s S&T system. The Minister for Natural Resources, Science and Technology represents S&T in the cabinet and the Department of S&T is the central body for policy advice, promotion and coordination. A number of line departments, statutory S&T institutions, associations and similar bodies are responsible for the execution of policies.

    The difficulty of monitoring the system due to lack of S&T indicators was emphasised. The main weakness of the system were identified to be the difficulty of convincing the government to invest in S&T; the relatively young age of the concept of S&T in Lesotho; the predominance of western S&T culture vis--vis indigenous technologies and poor facilities for monitoring and assessment.

    As strengths were identified the following: the government’s commitment as indicated by the establishment of a Department of S&T; the introduction of S&T in secondary and tertiary education; steps to develop S&T policy and to establish S&T indicators.

    Capacity-building and policy formulation and implementation were identified as priority areas.

    Overview of the S&T system and policy in Malawi

    Dr IMG Phiri

    The S&T system in Malawi was outlined. The highest authority is the National Research Council of Malawi (NRCM) placed in the Office of the President and Cabinet. NRCM, however, was limited in its coordinating efforts by lack of a regulating and funding authority, institutional instability and lack of government directions in the field of S&T. A number of local and international organisations fulfil the performance role for the S&T system.

    It was indicated that there is a lack of statistics concerning the degree of expenditure on R&D and that only one study identified that ‘government’s contribution to the agricultural research budget (1997) was around 0.71% of the agricultural gross domestic product (GDP)’.

    Areas of weakness, apart from lack of coordination, are failure to identify emerging issues and lack of human resource capacity.

    Recent developments indicate considerable government commitment to S&T (e.g. Vision 2020 Policy Statement) and the newly produced National S&T Policy (with assistance from UNESCO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)) is currently under stakeholder review.

    The S&T system in Mozambique

    Mr S Mucavele

    It was mentioned that there is no S&T coordinating mechanism and that S&T is subordinate to the education system in Mozambique. S&T efforts are confined within the educational system and are focused on relevant curriculum development and the introduction of Information and Communication Technology to educational institutions.

    Overview of the S&T system of Namibia

    Mr A van Kent

    The presentation outlined the Namibian S&T system. S&T are the responsibility of the Ministry of Higher Education, Vocational Training, Science and Technology. A number of institutions (research, education, non-governmental, and so on) are engaged in S&T development operating in a fragmental and uncoordinated fashion. The Ministry of Higher Education, Vocational Training, Science and Technology is currently undertaking two surveys to identify the science, engineering and technical human resource base of the Namibian research institutions. An effort to determine S&T and research funding is being planned. The proposed national policy for S&T development was referred to; it envisages the establishment of a number of institutions aiming at facilitating coordination and implementation of the S&T policy.

    The main current weaknesses appear to be: low level of human and financial resources for S&T; lack of coordination; lack of mathematics and science teachers; low priority for R&D in industrial enterprises and lack of sufficient S&T information.

    South Africa’s S&T policy and system

    Dr M Jeenah

    The presentation referred to policy issues and the structure of the S&T system in the country. South Africa’s efforts to develop a comprehensive national system of innovation as outlined in the White Paper - Towards the 21st Century (1996) - was emphasised. The new approach is based on, and is emphasised by, multidisciplinarity, collaboration and innovativeness.

    The Ministry of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology is responsible for S&T in the country and it reports to the Cabinet. The Ministry also tackles issues of the Ministers’ Committee on S&T for advice and debate. The National Advisory Council on Innovation advises the Ministry appropriately. The country’s eight science councils and a number of other parastatals, higher education institutions and the private sector undertake S&T performance.

    Overview of Zambia’s national policy on S&T

    Mr N Imbuwa

    The institutional infrastructure in Zambia is based on the separation of policy and funding from performance of R&D. The Department of S&T under the auspices of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training is responsible for policy development and implementation and funding of S&T. The National Science and Technology Council, an autonomous organisation, is mandated to regulate scientific R&D. A number of research institutes and centres are operating under the National S&T Council.

    As main weaknesses in the S&T system were identified the weak local and international collaboration, shortages of senior scientific personnel and low capital funding for laboratory equipment and facilities. It was suggested that the provision of S&T data of the SADC members could facilitate networking and cooperation in the region.

    S&T in Zimbabwe

    Ms T Mudzi

    The S&T situation in Zimbabwe was outlined. A historical overview revealed the country’s efforts to create S&T infrastructure. After independence, emphasis was placed on S&T within the education system (e.g. science camps for girls, science teachers trained in Cuba and so on). The Scientific Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC) was established in 1995 with a number of research institutes supporting industrial activities. The Ministry of Higher Education and Technology is responsible for the coordination and support of S&T in the country.

    The problems identified include limited funding, poor dissemination of information related to the impact of research on development, and lack of coordination. It was emphasized that government and SIRDC were currently drafting a new S&T policy.

    S&T in the Kingdom of Swaziland

    Prof V Mtetwa

    The presentation outlined the establishment and eventual cessation of the Swaziland National Research Council in the early 1970s. Composed of notable persons, the Council could not find direction and a way to link its members’ day-to-day duties with NRC responsibilities. The NRC was reconstituted after the Conference of Ministers responsible for S&T in Africa (CASTAFRICA) in 1987, but again fell into dormancy. A number of government ministries (e.g. Agriculture and Cooperatives, Education, Health and Social Welfare, etc.) and Departments/Sections (e.g. Geological Survey and Mines, Swaziland Electricity Board and so on) are having an impact upon S&T activities.

    Weaknesses of the system were identified as:

  • The non-existence of a coordinating body;
  • The lack of a secretariat;
  • The lack of funding; and
  • The lack of implementation of S&T policy.
  •  

    The restructuring of the NRC with a permanent secretariat and the annual subvention from government for S&T were mentioned as priorities to strengthen the role of S&T.

    Referring to Swaziland’s National Development Strategy (NDS), it was mentioned that the NDS recommends the establishment, by an Act of Parliament, of a National Research, Science and Technology Council (NRSTC). The function of the Council would be to coordinate scientific research and technology activities in the country.

    The presentation concluded recommending the undertaking of efforts to sensitise governments on the importance of S&T , the dissemination of information on the availability S&T human resources, equipment research activities in the region, etc. Pollution, standards, agriculture, energy and telecommunications were identified as areas that Swaziland may look forward to collaborate and support.

     

    OTHER PRESENTATIONS

    SADC (HRD) Protocol on Education and Training in the Southern African
    Development Community (Article 8)

    Ms L Mavimbela

    Representing the SADC Human Resources Development sector, the speaker outlined the SADC Protocol on Education and Training that has just been ratified by eight countries in the region and has become a legal document.

    The Protocol’s objectives are to:

    develop and implement a common system for regular collection and reporting of information by member states;

    promote the development of comparable policies;

    establish institutional arrangements for collaboration;

    eliminate immigration formalities; and

    promote science, technology and R&D.

     

    The Protocol makes provisions for cooperation in S&T in Article 6. Some of the provisions in the field are:

    the development of a regional S&T policy;

    the determination of common priority areas;

    the development of joint research facilities and sophisticated equipment;

    the establishment of regional centres of excellence;

    the development of monitoring and assessment mechanisms;

    the free movement of researchers in the region.

    The presentation concluded by referring to the recommendations of a regional workshop to consider implementation strategies for the Protocol. The approaches suggested include the:

    collection and dissemination of information of existing S&T programmes and facilities in the region;

    identification of special focus areas for basic and applied research; and

    development of regional and international linkages and exchanges.

    Review of the S&T system in Africa

    Dr B Ntim

    The presentation concentrated on an overview of the situation of S&T on the African continent. The opening statement was that ‘any blueprint for the future must define the state of affairs… and … the absence of reliable statistics in S&T … in Africa makes it hard to estimate what the current S&T picture is’.

    The limited available indicators point to two issues. Firstly, science has already had a significant impact on development in Africa. Life expectancy, infant mortality, accesses to safe water and adult literacy rates are some of the areas in which S&T have had a substantial impact in the continent. Secondly, the S&T base in sub-Saharan Africa is inadequate. The low number of scientists and engineers is the result and a consequence of the situation of S&T in Africa. Other problems which prevent the take-off of S&T on the continent is brain drain, low priority ranking of R&D by African governments, lack of funds, obsolescence and last, but not least, political instability.

    UNESCO attaches extreme importance to S&T and the organization’s efforts to raise the profile of S&T in Africa were emphasised: the Symposium on S&T in Africa, in Nairobi, in which the World Science Report was launched; the first Pan African Conference on Sustainable Integrated Coastal Management in Maputo and the UNESCO support in providing advice to Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe were some examples of UNESCO’s activities in the field.

    Current practices in regional S&T collaboration - what SADC countries
    can learn from APEC, RICYT and OECD

    Dr A Pouris

    The presentation was divided in three sections. The first one on collaboration was set in the context of S&T policy. The emphasised points were:

  • Collaboration is undertaken for a number of reasons. The most important area is access to knowledge in order to: share costs and risks; promote standardisation; gain access to markets; and facilitate and promote political objectives.

  • Collaboration is an instrument of S&T policy aiming at achieving policy objectives (targets). It affects, or has the potential to affect, the major S&T policy objectives i.e. The size, quality and make up of S&T enterprise; the utilisation of available expertise; and the public understanding and appreciation of science.

  • Although collaboration involves a number of considerations (e.g. optimum regional policy may differ from optimum national ones).

  • S&T collaboration is a widespread phenomenon. The USA spends more than US$3.3 billion per year on international S&T collaboration, 19% of South African publications and 70% of those in Malawi are internationally co-authored.

  • The second section describes the collaborative efforts of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Ibero-American Network of S&T Indicators (RICYT). The OECD secretariat has a dedicated directorate for Science, Technology and Industry. Its activities include monitoring, through the collection of data and development of indicators for the member states; production of publication related to S&T policy issues; and organising of related meetings and conferences.

    The APEC secretariat also has institutionalised S&T through the establishment of the working group on Industrial Science and Technology. Its activities include the monitoring of S&T systems of the member countries through the development of S&T indicators and the undertaking of surveys; the provision of information and the establishment of networks through seminars, symposia, websites and so on.

    RICYT covers all countries in the Americas together with Spain and Portugal and was established in 1998 in order to promote the development of instruments for measuring and analysis of S&T in Latin America within the framework of international cooperation.

    The third section elaborates on the utilisation of S&T indicators and a vehicle and leverage joint for S&T collaboration at the policy level. The African continent is identified as the only block that does not monitor its S&T system through the development of comparable statistics and indicators.

    IDRC/DACST SADC survey on mutually beneficial research areas

    Ms M Pyoos and Dr H Kahn

    The presentation revealed that lack of information about other countries creates obstacles in implementation of bilateral agreements. It referred to two studies supported currently by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in South Africa. The first aimed to identify the strengths and scientific priorities in a number of North African, Asian and Latin American countries and was undertaken by Dr A Pouris. The second investigation aimed to identify mutually beneficial research areas in the SADC region and was undertaken by Dr M. Kahn.

    For the latter, it was emphasised that the search is for detailed projects as the broad areas, such as agriculture, health and biodiversity are already known. The first stage of the investigation revolved around a survey of the activities of the South African science councils.

    Some of the questions that are attempted to be answered are:

  • What are the research priorities within sectors of disciplines in the various SADC countries?
  • With who are the various countries already cooperating?
  • Who are the customers of the research?
  • How is the research capacity provided?
  • What is the role of government?
  • How are the performance partners set? etc.
  • The presentation concluded by outlining the next steps of the investigation, some of which are to:

  • consult with policy makers;
  • explore the value net for each state and undertake SWOT analysis as necessary;
  • identify possible projects across national borders; and
  • develop the framework for initial funding.
  • Multilateral cooperation and resourcing opportunities

    Dr CJ Scheffer

    The presentation referred to the resources needed and associated with multilateral cooperation and defined them in broader terms to include funding, expertise, information, management skills, sharing of facilities, etc.

    A number of institutions offering resources were identified such as the Commonwealth Science Council, IDRC, WFTO, UNESCO and so on. The Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) of the European Union was also mentioned extensively. The Programme for International Cooperation with Developing Countries (INCODEV ) offers South Africa and other SADC member states an opportunity to partner with scientists and technologists in the Framework of the European Union S&T.

    It was emphasised that even in cases where non-EU members participate under the FP5 at their own full cost, the benefits are considerable for such participants. Apart from sharing in the expertise of internationally recognised scientists and technologists, the associated databases and networks become available and the R&D results are 100% accessible to participants contributing only a certain percentage of a joint project.

    The presentation was completed by suggesting that the HRD sector of SADC could play a facilitating role in disseminating information of these resourcing opportunities and in accessing the various kinds of resources for the member countries.

    Need for regional cooperation and development

    Dr E Tyobeka

    The presentation outlined the justification for national collaboration in the field of S&T. Countries collaborate in order to:

  • support and strengthen their S&T systems;
  • facilitate and exploit their country’s opportunities;
  • promote their country’s image as capable of making a contribution at regional and international level; and
  • strengthen the role of S&T in socioeconomic development.
  • The emphasis of the presentation was on the imperatives for regional cooperation. The imperatives were grouped into three categories - i.e. economic development, political considerations and leverage effects. Under economic development, the issues underlined were the trends to create trade and investment blocks internationally; the global connectivity and the approach to development through spatial initiatives (development corridor from Walvis Bay to Maputo).

    Political considerations cover the issue of North-South relationships (the South needs its own pool of knowledge in order to interact with North) and the African Renaissance initiative.

    Lastly, the leverage effects refer to:

  • access to resources and knowledge not accessible alternative to individual countries (e.g. megascience);
  • the possibility of sharing costs and risks in an environment of increasing costs and risks;
  • change of the regional outlook; and
  • the strategic approach of bilateral, multilateral and international donors.
  • World Conference on Science

    Dr B Ntim

    The modus operandi of the World Conference on Science to take place in Budapest, Hungary, in June 1999 was outlined and the subsequent discussion was led by Dr B Ntim. The Conference will examine and approve the Draft World Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge and Draft Science Agenda - Framework for Action. It was emphasised that Chapter 3 of the Draft Science Agenda - ‘Science for Peace and Development’ is particularly important for the SADC countries.

    A number of delegates indicated that they would participate in the Conference. As SADC does not have currently the necessary structures in place to present a common point of view, it was suggested that the individual countries examine the Draft Science Agenda and each one would submit to SADC their point of view. SADC will compile a synthesis for presentation to the Conference.

    It was also suggested that the deliberations of the Meeting of Directors-General of S&T in the SADC region be submitted to the Conference.

    The meeting concluded with discussion concerning indigenous knowledge systems in the region and closing remarks by the Chairperson.

    RECOMMENDATIONS

    During the second day of the Meeting the participants were divided into three working groups and considered the way in which the SADC countries should move ahead to give rise to a closer cooperation among them in the field of S&T.

    Structure, governance and linkages

  • A Technical Sub-Committee on S&T should be created according to the provisions of the SADC protocol.

  • The Technical Sub-Committee on S&T should:

  • establish its aims and objectives as well as its key performance areas in the framework of the Protocol and the social and economic needs of the region.

  • This Technical Sub-Committee should establish its relationships and linkages with other technical committees and Sectors within SADC. Working groups can also be established for specific purposes and in specific disciplines or areas of co-operation.

  • The Technical Sub-Committee should have national focal points that are well integrated with the S&T players in that country.

  • Functions/Modalities of Cooperation

    The Technical Committee should:

  • seek political and other support (e.g. from Minister's Committees) for mandate, resourcing, infrastructure, commitment to implementation of research results, etc.;
  • coordinate efforts to sensitize government regarding the importance of S&T in economic development;
  • facilitate the creation, regular review and advice on implementation of country and SADC S&T policy;
  • collect & disseminate information on country S&T indicators, capacities at institutional level, etc.;
  • create or improve S&T related networks; home page(s) for S&T collaboration;
  • liaise with international S&T bodies;
  • run S&T awareness and sensitization programmes (public understanding of science, engineering and technology);
  • facilitate R&D collaboration on transnational issues;
  • promote links with SADC sectors;
  • promote bilateral S&T agreements; Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs);
  • promote harmonisation of standards and recognition of Intellectual Property Rights;
  • establish an S&T advice clearinghouse;
  • promote and facilitate the effective functioning of academic, scientific and professional institutions in the region; and
  • encourage the effective use of centres of excellence.
  • Specific areas of cooperation

  • Water
  • Energy
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Food security
  • Drought management
  • Trans-boundary pollution
  • Monitoring movement of skills
  • Development of common/regional S&T indicators
  • HRD in S&T
  • Audit of indigenous knowledge systems and adding value to the application of indigenous technologies
  • Development of forward-looking strategies for R&D applicators (focused foresight)
  • Support for S&T entrepreneurship
  • The use of information technology and communications systems in developing a knowledge industry in the region.
  • The delegates agreed that the suggested modus operandi would be informed by other recent initiatives on promoting S&T collaboration in the region, e.g. by the draft action plan developed by the Working Groups on Higher Education and Research to implement the Protocol on Education and Training.

    Rapporteur : Dr Anastassios Pouris

    ***

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