Pan-African University controversy continues

April 2, 2012

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Maina Waruru
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


I picked up interesting undertones from the first day of the meeting.

It seems the disagreements surrounding the selection of the Pan-African University (PAU) node for the Southern Africa region are far from being over; at least that was the impression I had as Beatrice Njenga of African Union gave  a rundown of the project  to the conference today.

South Africa’s Stellenbosch University had been chosen to host the space sciences centre but there were concerns by other regional countries who claimed they were not consulted — and also that they would have preferred to host a centre on water issues.

Njenga was upbeat that the project was doing well. PAU’s most recent fourth of five centres being set up around the continent by the African Union (AU) was announced on 18 March in Algeria.

Alfred Watkins, executive chairman of Global Innovation Summit had some interesting sentiments on the broader issue of investing in science in Africa.

He lamented widespread inertia when it came to the need for “practical solutions for practical problems,” and added that “vision with no implementation was mere hallucination”.

The same sentiment had been expressed earlier in the morning by Kenya’s Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Margret Kamar.

“Africa is full of declarations we must now move to action,” she said.

According to a UNESCO report, Sub-Saharan Africa has seen growth in recent years in science and technology, particularly in the areas of internet access due to the explosion in mobile phone use, and I’ll have more to say on that in another blog post.

However, R& D output has remained low across the continent.


Greater ST&I investment needed to fight youth unemployment and poverty

April 2, 2012

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Maina Waruru
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


The African Conference on Science, Technology and Innovations for Youth Employment, Human Capital Development and Inclusive Growth opened in Nairobi on Sunday with calls for tangible action to use science and technology to fight youth unemployment and poverty.

Speakers at the first day of the conference said the time had come for the continent to use knowledge already in its possession to tackle these double  malaises  which continue to afflict the continent even as scientific and technical advances continue to be made around the world.

“It is now quite clear that the ability of African countries to achieve rapid and inclusive development and [the] ability to compete in the global market lies in their  ability to use science and technology and to creatively innovate, ” said Margaret Kamar, Kenya’s Minister for Education, Science and Technology.

“It is only through this that Africa governments will be able to address some of the most pressing challenges of  human capital  development and youth unemployment,” said the minister at the opening of the conference.

The forum — the very first of its kind in Africa — is sponsored by the United Nations  Education  and Science Council (UNESCO) and the African Development Bank (AFDB).

It aims to generate concrete steps and points of action including a “Nairobi Declaration” on a way forward that addresses the conference’s main themes and the measures that need to be taken to actualise the dream of African economies driven by ST&I.

Delegates include government ministers, bureaucrats and civil society activists and representatives from the private sector.

Lamine Ndiaye, President  of the African Academy of Sciences urged the continent’s governments to increase funding for ST&I, saying the traditional apathy of funding for ST&I would not work for Africa.


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