African science ministers who met last week in Cairo, Egypt, have recommended a set of measures to promote science and technology across the continent for endorsement at next month's African Union (AU) summit of heads of states. The ministers will ask the summit to create a Pan-African Intellectual Property Organization, and to designate 2007 as a year for science, technology and innovation in Africa.
The heads of state will be asked to agree that at least 1 per cent of countries' gross domestic product should go to promote research and development and to develop innovation strategies for economic growth. The ministers will also ask the AU summit to express support for South-South cooperation in science, technology and innovation, and to enhance the role of such cooperation in international partnerships.
A plan to create a 20-year biotechnology strategy was among many ideas that the ministers pledged to commit themselves to collectively. This strategy will involve harmonizing national and regional regulations that promote the application and safe use of biotechnology.
The proposal to nominate 2007 as a year of science, technology and innovation provoked lively discussion at the conference. Some ministers hesitated over launching such a year so soon, without clarifying what activities and programs it would entail, but there was an eventual agreement to call 2007 the 'launching year' for building up science and technology in Africa.
The ministers pledged to create common guidelines for identifying and creating African networks of centers of excellence in science and technology. They also vowed to better consult with local scientists, including science academies in Africa and African scientists in the diaspora. This comes partly as a response to recent criticism from the scientific community that it felt excluded from policy decisions (see African academies urge politicians not to ignore them).
Their final recommendations, named the 'Cairo declaration', will be presented to the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next January, which will focus on 'Science, Technology and Research for Africa's Development'.
Organized by the AU Commission on behalf of the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST), the conference was attended by representatives from 26 AU member states and agencies, international and continental government and nongovernmental organizations, and the diaspora.
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