Towards Better Synergy between S&T and Development: Proposals and Recommendations
This report addresses the relationship between S&T, on the one hand, and innovation, outreach and development, on the other. This relationship is very complex with many intervening factors between research and application, especially the distorting influence of political interference. Policy making involves striking a balance between technocratic assessments based on scientific evidence and priorities based on political considerations and interests. Bridging the gap between science and development is compounded by the fact that scientists and practitioners speak different ‘languages’ with distinct idioms. These two communities also operate within different time horizons: research is a long-term undertaking while practitioners demand immediate results. Largely due to weak institutional capacities, unreliable communication infrastructure and other structural impediments, the involvement of African institutions in EU-funded research programmes has been dismal. Acknowledging the importance of science and technology in the economic development process African and European technocrats and S&T subject-matter specialists require fora to refine and operationalise policy decisions. The dialogue should move from the high level of officials and politician down to the scientists and practitioners who are closest to the problems at hand with a view to building operational models for bridging the existing gap. There is also a need for the provision of support to pre-proposal activities (‘seed money’) for potential African applicants. EDF national and regional indicative programmes should be modified to make explicit provision for S&T activities. Utilising African scientific Diasporas to synergise S&T and development should be explored. It is critical that funding mechanisms be found, including an endowment fund. The establishment and operationalisation of the African Science and Innovation Fund (ASIF) for long-term financing is urgent.
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