Thursday , December 9 2021

Africa Recovery Hinges on Technological Innovations, Job Creation -ECA

To survive the economic crisis occasioned by the Covid-19 attack, Africa will have to invest massively n technology, Science, Innovation and create sustainable jobs, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has announced.

This is needed to drive down the current costs of IP registrations on the continent which are prohibitive and not rewarding innovation.

The revelation that only 25 percent of Africa’s population has access to quality, affordable and reliable broadband has created the need to improve internet penetration on the continent, especially as a lot of jobs and wealth are going to come out of innovation.

The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe in her remarks at the beginning of a five-day virtual meeting tagged, “Africa Innovation and Investment Forum 2020”, said Africa needs innovations to drive homegrown solutions out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession it has triggered the world over.

The Forum which was convened by the ECA, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO), and South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation in partnership with the African Union Commission and Engineering for Change had prominent personalities like Ethiopia’s Education Minister, Getahun Mekuria; the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, Ms. Sarah Anyang Agbor; and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Hubert Gijzen in attendance. They all spoke in the opening session emphasizing the importance of STI to the African continent at this particular time.

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Songwe emphasized the need for Investments in Innovation, Science and Technology (SCI) inorder to understand how we can protect our citizens and also as a way of growing out of this crisis.

STI would be at the heart of Africa’s recovery and its ability to create sustainable jobs that is why for a very long time ECA has been talking of the importance also of intellectual property rights to protect the innovations of Africa’s youth.

The ECA Executive Secretary, said “As we talk of science, technology and innovation, we also need to make sure that our policymakers ensure that our technological platforms are robust. This virus has highlighted the importance of science, technology and innovation and the need for Africa to build a much stronger, much more collaborative scientific technology industrial base”.

Songwe, added that partnerships were needed across the continent to ensure that as we build on the African Continental Free Trade Area, we develop, discover and innovate collaboratively.

Songwe said Africa also needs to come together to see how it can be part of the big drive to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and other diseases affecting the continent.

she said, “the continent needs to innovate collectively and support its youth to innovate by creating the necessary infrastructure to create quality jobs, spur economic growth and promote health”.

Ethiopia’s Education Minister, Mr. Getahun Mekuria, on his part, said, “Africa has a lot of assets. Be it its vast natural resources or its youth but we will continue to lag exponentially behind if we do not fuel our own innovations”.

Also, the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, Ms. Sarah Agbor, said lack of capacity was a major issue the continent needs to address.

She said, “We need to boost strategic investments in STI if we are to deliver Africa’s aspirations as enunciated in Agenda 2063 as adding the private sector had a key role to play in helping the continent translate research into innovation”.

Mr. Gijzen, Regional Director and Representative for the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa, said; “We are so focused on combating the coronavirus at the moment but we should not forget that sustainable development goals. The SDGs should remain our compass even as we fight the pandemic.”

He said the crisis had, however, encouraged open science as the search for a cure and vaccination continues. He added that linking investment to innovation was critical.

For his part, Mr. Daan du Toit, Deputy-Director General, International Cooperation and Resources in the Department of Science and Innovation in South Africa, said Africa should do all it can to use STI to bolster growth in the aftermath of COVID-19, adding it was very much about involving the young people.

About Bukola Olanrewaju

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