Africa marks innovation progress

Audra Mahlong
By Audra Mahlong, senior journalist
Johannesburg, 18 Mar 2009

The continent still struggles to collect statistics for research and development (R&D) and innovation, says the African Science Technology and Innovation Indicators (ASTII) initiative.

Speaking at a workshop held by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and Sweden's Lund University, participating countries stated that building relevant science and technology innovation (STI) indicators was challenging.

The 19 member countries, which include Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, SA and Zambia, stated that, despite the challenges, they remain committed to the development of reliable indicators.

ASTII is a Nepad programme, which aims to improve the quality of science, technology and innovation policies at national, regional and continental levels. The initiative uses STI indicators which are used to mark countries' economic and social progress. The initiative hopes the indicators will translate into a better governance of science, technology and innovation on the continent.

Speaking at the workshop, professor Crispus Kiamba, permanent secretary for the ministry of higher education, science and technology, in Kenya, reiterated the importance of efforts to harmonise R&D innovation instruments to address the challenges encountered and strengthen national capacities, increase networking and improve regional integration.

The group last met in March 2008 to share experiences and knowledge on conducting R&D and innovation surveys - and agreed to develop standards for indicators.

The initiative states “science, technology and innovation are the missing link to assist evidence-based policy-making”. According to the group, “the application of STIs plays a role in solving problems associated with energy deficiency, food security, environment degradation, diseases, water insecurity and many other sustainable development challenges”.