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Capacity-Building in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy in Africa

©‎ J. Chaves, IRRI scientist in a farming school in Burundi.

Nowadays it is widely accepted that science, technology and innovation are key elements for achieving sustainable development in any type of economy but especially in developing countries since it is the raw material for competitiveness and productivity which have bigger turn in for poverty reduction and social inclusiveness. Reaping benefits from STI efforts is not a trivial task, countries require far more than technical or scientific knowledge; they require strategic, managerial and policy making skills that allow them to create well-encompassed systems with governing structures capable of designing country strategies and aligned policies and policy instruments.

UNESCO has been working on this front for decades and the present project is the continuation of these efforts. On this occasion the Spanish government funded a 1,7 MUSD project from April 2011 to December 2014, as an effort to answer more than 20 official requests for assistance received by UNESCO from African governments from 2009 to 2011 to review and/or formulate effective STI policies and strategies and action plans to ensure their implementation.

The project involved countries from all parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The geographical distribution of the participating countries is the following:

  • Western Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
  • Central Africa: Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, and Gabon.
  • Eastern Africa: Mozambique and Sudan.
  • Southern Africa: Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, the assistance requests evidenced lack of institutional capacity, skills and experience in STI policy and management and the need for UNESCO to accompany STI stakeholders in their efforts to manage and govern STI.

Therefore, the project adopted the GO-SPIN methodology as a basic tool to achieve the three main original objectives of the project:

  1. Improving the conditions and building mechanisms for innovation
  2. Building regional capacities in evidence-based STI policy formulation.
  3. The establishment of an African Virtual Campus to improve science and technology education.

The results of the project greatly outgrew its initial expectations.The original proposal was aiming at formulating/reviewing STI national policies and action plans but did not expect to go into the holistic diagnosis or mapping of the STI national systems that was done in 11 countries and in the design of concrete policy instruments (including legal instruments and monitoring tools) or governing bodies for their implementation, as indeed happened. This great contribution was driven by the adoption of the UNESCO’s Global Observatory for SETI policy instruments GO-SPIN methodology and evaluation tools, which provided the means to identify countries’ gaps and develop actions plans to address them. The final declaration of the 2012 African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology (AMCOST V), held in Brazzaville (Republic of Congo) on 12−15 November 2012 acknowledged it and explicitly requested to coordinate efforts between the African Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation (AOSTI) and the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators ASTII programme for the integration of African countries in the GO-SPIN.

To this end, in 2012 and 2013, three sub-regional training workshops (in English, French and Portuguese) were organized in cooperation with AOSTI and ASTII to train project beneficiary countries on how to fill in the GO-SPIN survey to map their national STI system and enter the Global observatory. Proved as a powerful tool for the design and evaluation of tailored-made STI policies and policy instruments, UNESCO has been able to launch under this project, a series of 3 complete publications (GO-SPIN country profiles) based on the surveys information for the republic of Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

To sum up, the outcomes of the project can be summarized as follows:

  • The participating countries recognise STI policies and policy instruments as fundamental tools to attain sustainable development. Consequently STI policy is considered at the highest strategic level as being a critical component of overall development policy.
  • The project produced a framework for STI policy analysis, design, review, implementation and evaluation, promoting evidence-based decision making.
  • Through the GO-SPIN surveys the project was instrumental in generating, collecting and analysing innovative information on STI policies; operational STI policy instruments; STI legal frameworks; STI national systems: organizational charts and STI priorities;
  • The project provided opportunity to share information and best practices on national STI policy design and implementation, on lessons learned for ensuring increased effectiveness in STI policies;
  • The project convened various stakeholders including government, parliaments, scientific institutions, universities, parliaments, private sector, civil society to dialogue on important STI issues;
  • The project enhanced policy coordination and fostered cross-sector policy cooperation as National task forces with STI ministries, sectorial and planning ministries, academia, statistics office and parliament were stablished and trained·
  • The project achieved stronger partnerships and promoted synergies between STI policy networks and other partners including AOSTI, AU, ISESCO, universities, etc.

Please find the main project achievements in the table HERE.

After the successful completion of the project, the Spanish government has kindly agreed to finance a second phase of the project aiming at formulating concrete tailored-made policy instruments to address the gaps of the STI national systems in four countries: Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Mozambique and Senegal.

For further information on the results and documents produced under the project, kindly address your queries to Ms. Juliana Chaves-Chaparro, Assistant Project Officer at the Science Policy and Capacity Building Division of UNESCO.

Insight to some country

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