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9-Misc: African governments call for USD45 million for the "safe development and application of biotechnology"

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TITLE:  African governments back science
SOURCE: The Scientist, by Stephen Pincock
DATE:   10 Oct 2005

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African governments back science
At a meeting in Senegal, representatives of over 40 nations adopt a
consolidated plan of action

The governments of more than 40 African countries attending a meeting in
Dakar, Senegal, recently (September 30) pledged their support for a $160
million plan to boost science and technology across the continent.

The plan includes 12 flagship programs, ranging from biodiversity studies
to space science. The biggest items in the budget are $45 million each
for the "safe development and application of biotechnology," and for
securing and sustaining water. Other major amounts are earmarked for
strengthening the African Laser Center ($20 million) and building a
sustainable energy base ($15 million).

In terms of improving policy and innovation, the plan calls for $5
million to be spent on an African Science, Technology and Innovations
Indicators Initiative; $450,000 for improving regional cooperation in
science and technology; and $350,000 for building a common African
strategy for biotechnology.

The plan was adopted by delegates at the 2nd African Ministerial
Conference on Science and Technology (AMCOST), drawn up under the
auspices of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

John Mugabe, executive secretary of NEPAD's commission for science and
technology, said there was a positive mood at the meeting, reflecting a
surge in political support for science and technology as a tool for
development in Africa. "There is an increasing appreciation at various
levels," he told The Scientist. "For Africa, it is the recognition that
economic growth is not going to be achieved if Africa does not focus on
science and technology as a source of productivity."

President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal expressed similar sentiments in his
opening address at the meeting. "Africa cannot and should not remain a
passive consumer of technologies," he said, "but should fall into step
with the rest of the world by developing a productive endogenous research

In Senegal, for example, the government is devoting 40% of its budget to
education, Wade said, and has decided to create a fully-fledged ministry
in charge of scientific research and technical and professional training.
"I intend to turn Senegal into an emerging country in which development
will be based on the effective enhancement of research results," Wade
said. Several other African nations have also created science and
technology ministries in the last two years alone, Mugabe noted.

The plan brings together several smaller science and technology programs
under one umbrella, with a total budget of $157 million over 5 years.

Dhesigen Naidoo, Group Executive for International Cooperation and
Resources at South Africa's science ministry, noted that the plan evolved
from the grass roots of African science. "The document reflects the
aspirations of the African science community plus a very strong sense of
pragmatism," he told The Scientist. "I think we have a good balance
between what is possible and what is ambitious."

Headway has already been made on the biosciences and water programs, as
well as the laser center and a mathematical sciences project, he said.
"This new African initiative already has a history, and that history is

African nations are expected to pick up most of the tab for the programs
in the plan. "We are already starting to see commitments," Mugabe said.
"Governments are indicating what their contributions will be." He noted
that the spending on this plan is expected to be on top of a promise from
governments to spend 1% of GDP on domestic science and technology.

However there is "continuing uncertainty over how much of this money will
materialize," noted the Science and Development Network, a news service
funded by the British, Swedish and Canadian governments, among others.
Given this, several delegates at the meeting suggested international
partners would also need to make substantial contributions, the Web site

Representatives of G8 countries, including the US, Canada and the UK,
were also at the meeting, as well as a delegate from the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). "The really
important thing that happened in Senegal is that we've organized
ourselves to the point of transition," said Naidoo. "We demonstrated to
ourselves as Africans and our international partners that science and
technology in Africa isn't just about one or two countries--in fact, the
top core is about 25 countries."

Links for this article

2nd African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology

Africa's Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action

African Laser Center

R. Walgate, "Support for African science," The Scientist, May 7, 2004.

Opening statement, His Excellency, Mr. Abdoulaye Wade, President of the
Republic of Senegal

N. Dia, "Donor nations pledge support for African Science,",
October 3, 2005.

S. Pincock, "UK to boost Africa science funds," The Scientist, February
1, 2005.


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