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CODIST-II: Innovation for Africa's Industrial development

Innovation can simply be seen as the process of combining resources in new or extraordinary ways to generate economic or social value such as slight improvements (incremental) on existing products and services, major leaps in performance (radical innovations) and changes in technology systems. Africa faces many challenges that could benefit from innovations – such as new applications of existing knowledge in agriculture, health, education, environment, information technology, infrastructure development and delivery of other key services. In private sector-led economies, this cannot be achieved without laying a sound industrial base to bring new and improved seeds, vaccines, medicines, fertilizers, communication tools, water systems and clean energy source to market at a competitive price.

Encouraging our scientists, institutions and firms to innovate could help Africa realize the immerse opportunities in the continent. This is not an impossible task – Africa has just witnessed many “African first” innovations in the mobile phone applications that were born out of combination of existing knowledge to solve unique African challenges in the area of money transfers. These innovations have created business opportunities for many firms, created jobs and reduced the costs of money transfers especially in rural Africa.

One area that has been neglected is promotion of non-technological innovations - new and improved ways of organizing internal institutional practices, external relations and market approaches. In some cases, the technology exists, applications are known and the opportunities are many but they cannot be realized because the practices do not permit. For example, few African firms invest in R&D, have links to R&D centres or participate in international industrial alliances. In a way, they are not taking on board emerging partnering arrangement practices that cut the costs and risks of product development, manufacturing/delivery and marketing.

Another area of great potential in Africa is design innovation. If African products are to compete at home and abroad, their appearance and feel has to meet the needs of increasingly sophisticated consumers. A consumer’s decision to buy a product over another may be partly based on its design (e.g. shoes, computers, cars and homes) in addition to utility. Designs also present many technological challenges that push the development of better solutions and/or more technologically advanced materials.

While there is renewed interest in promoting endogenous industrial development in Africa, these efforts are only likely to have a higher chance of success if they combine measures to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in industrial development strategies. In this way, innovation becomes a critical tool in meeting some of Africa’s basic needs such as food security, expanding education, improving health care, diversify exports, among others, through formation of dynamic and innovative firms.

It is for this reason that CODIST-II will address ways in which Africa can harness innovation for industrial development. It will seek generate recommendations that governments could consider in seeding and nurturing innovative industries likely to be globally competitive, create viable businesses, generate millions of jobs Africa badly needs and develop locally branded products. It will draw on African and international experiences and current trends in build new industries around the world, especially green industries.

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Political will key in strengthening STI

By Brenda Zulu

Strengthening Science Technology and Innovation (STI) issues in Africa will require strong political leadership and a better integration of cross-cutting STI policies with overall development policies, including economic, financial, budgetary, fiscal, labour, agricultural, industrial and micro-enterprise development.

Addressing the launch of the African Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation, a pre-event at the Second Session of the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology (CODIST- II) currently underway in Addis Ababa, Mrs Lidia Brito, UNESCO Director Division of Science Policy and Sustainable Development, said in the last decade there was a large consensus at national, regional and continental level that supporting STI was essential for Africa to achieve sustainable social and economic growth and alleviate poverty.

“African countries have begun to recognize that, without investment in STI, the continent will stay on the periphery of the global knowledge economy. In this context, a number of African countries have been progressively enhancing their S&T capacity as a strategy for extricating themselves from the grips of poverty, hunger and disease, and as a means of achieving industrial development and social transformation. Strong action has been taken by many African governments to developing/revising their national STI policies and programmes,” said Mrs Brito.

Brito explained that building the future through Science, Technology and Innovation represents a major challenge for all African countries.

“In fact, over the past two decades, inadequate human and institutional capacity in Science, Technology and Innovation has been identified as one of the recurring factors preventing Africa from reaching economic growth and sustainable development. Poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, improved access to safe water supply and sanitation services, the reduction of child mortality and the improvement of maternal health: are all major goals for the African people and their achievement depends upon the continent’s capacity in Science, Technology and Innovation, both at national and regional levels,” explained Brito.

“According to the UNESCO Science Report 2010 “Africa, as a continent, today represents a sizeable contributor to the global Research and Development effort. The Research and Development intensity of these economies or their human capital might still be low but their contribution to the stock of world knowledge is actually rising rapidly,” she said.

Brito observed that among the African institutions involved in promoting and consolidating new forms of governance, Parliaments have a central role to play such as recognised by the Africa’s Science and Technology CPA, that recommends Parliamentarians’ annual conferences in science and innovation in order “to provide Member of the AU-Pan-African Parliaments opportunities to reflect on the role and implications of scientific and technological development, and devise ways of improving the quality of legislation in support of Science, Technology and Innovation activities.

She added that African parliaments were exerting greater influence on how their countries are governed.

“They are more effective at shaping legislation, monitoring and challenging the executive, and representing citizens’ views. However, huge challenges remain. Problems of institutional capacity, in terms of the available resources, expertise and facilities are still challenges to be faced,” said Brito.

“Engaging with national Parliaments is vital for the success of UNESCO’s mandate in science. Responsible dialogue and debate lie at the heart of all aspects of democracy, including in science and technology. Parliaments play a vital role in fostering the pluralism that is necessary for informed exchanges and sharper national science policies. This is all the more important as we seek to respond together to the core challenges that we all face today,” she said.

She called on Scientists to engage more closely with policy makers while retaining their independence in order to maintain credibility.

“At the same time, policy makers must actively seek a fuller dialogue with scientists, in order to communicate their information needs and to support the interaction between policy and research, as well as among scientists of relevant disciplines. This interaction can provide the basis for defining research programmes that are policy relevant and for ensuring more informed policy decisions,” she said.

She added that civil society had a role to play in this process especially of being more inclusive in the participation, development and monitoring of science and technology policies is a source of energy, mobilization and expertise.

Brito said the communication of science must be strengthened.
“The communication of science that is undertaken by science journalists, science centres and writers plays a key role in developing wider science literacy. National and international organizations must recognize this and make the most of it. The speed and complexity of scientific development is increasing the stakes,” explained Brito.

CODIST II, organised by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the African Union Commission is being held under the theme, Innovation for Africa’s industrial development. The first CODIST session was held in May 2009, also in Addis Ababa.


Africa: Cybercrime on the Rise as Bandwidth Increases

Most African countries lacking coordinated approaches to tackling cyber security in the wake of high Internet speeds

By Zachary Ochieng

As Africa celebrates the increased bandwidth following the landing of the submarine cables along its coast, legal and regulatory challenges are also beginning to emerge as cyber criminals take advantage of high Internet connectivity to commit fraud. In her keynote address during the workshop on Legal and Regulatory Frameworks for the Knowledge Economy in Africa, a pre-event to the Second Session of the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology (CODIST II), Ms Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director, ICT Science and Technology Division, UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), noted that as the information society expands, the challenges of cyber security must be tackled effectively if the growth of e-commerce is to be realised.

“Most African countries still do not have coordinated approaches to dealing with cyber security with the task sometimes left to the private sector. There is need to harmonise cyber security policies for the successful growth of e-commerce and e-signatures on the continent”, Ms Opoku-Mensah observed.

She lauded Ghana and Ethiopia for their efforts to have a cyber policy in place and urged other countries to follow suit.

Ms Cecil Bashe, Economic Affairs Officer, UN Conference on Trade and Development said the workshop provides an opportunity on how best to regulate the information economy. The main challenge, she noted, remains the harmonization of cyber laws.

“Without such legal framework, the potential of ICTs to promote economic growth and development cannot be realised”, she said.

At yet another pre-CODIST event, dubbed Launching the African Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation, Ms Opoku-Mensah urged the 40 legislators present at the event to bring the scientific community closer to them in order to promote the development of Science and Technology on the continent. She noted that political will is a prerequisite for Science, technology and Innovation to thrive.

CODIST II, organized by ECA in collaboration with the African Union Commission will be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa under the theme Innovation for Africa’s industrial Development. It will be officially opened at 5:00 pm today and runs till Thursday 5th May. It will explore the extent to which African countries have harnessed innovation to enhance industrial development of the continent.

A key highlight of the programme will be the Technology in Government in Africa Awards (TIGA), an initiative of ECA and the Government of Finland. The winners will be announced this evening at a gala ceremony to be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa.


Africa needs to increase local scientists for development

By Michael Ouma

Sub-Saharan African countries need to increase their critical mass of competent home-grown experts to achieve sustainable socio-economic development, according to an academic.

Prof Sospeter Muhongo, a geology lecturer at University of Dar es Salaam said that currently, there is a huge discrepancy between the number of scientists and engineers in comparison with the population in many sub Saharan Africa states.

In presentation titled Global Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Trends: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa’s Development – The Role of Parliament delivered during the launching the African Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (AIPF-STI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Prof Muhongo noted that the current overall ratio of scientists to the population in Africa is less than 1 expert per 10,000 inhabitants.

The Tanzania-based academic made the call during the introductory session of the Committee on Development Information Science and Technology (CODIST-II) conference, running from May 2 to 5 and whose theme is "Innovation for Industrial Development in Africa."

“In Uganda, there are 35 radiologists for 30 million people, which means that 1 radiologist treats 1.2 million people. About 2.5 million new engineers are needed in sub-Saharan Africa just to ensure provision of clean water and sanitation to everyone,” stated Prof Muhongo.

This compares very unfavourably with the European standards where there are about 6 researchers for every 10,000 inhabitants, with 2008 statistics indicating that there were 70 scientists per 10,000 people in the Scandinavia region.

Further 2008 statistics indicate that China had 25 researchers per 10,000 inhabitants and projects to have 43 researchers per 10,000 inhabitants by the year 2020.

He however noted that the continent is experiencing a heavy investment in the education sector which has lead to quality education at all levels of the learning system.

“Most countries have made provision of quality education there number one priority. Major funding sources for the sector include government – both local and central; thye private sector; foundations and other NGOs,” said Prof Muhongo at the conference being held at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC), Addis Ababa.

The overall theme of CODIST-II is to explore the extent to which African countries have harnessed the power of innovation to enhance industrial development on the continent and the extent to which industrial development has been linked to the countries’ innovation systems.

The session, organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), will also review progress made by the UNECA and member States towards implementing the recommendations and proposals developed at CODIST-I.


Africa Must Formulate Strong ICT Policies to Promote Development

ECA Executive Secretary roots for increased investment in ICT and reorientation of policies that will lift the continent out of poverty

By Zachary Ochieng

African countries need to strengthen their ICT policies and strategies in order to generate wealth and employment to their people. In his opening remarks at the Second Session of the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology (CODIST-II) currently underway in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Abdoulie Janneh, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and UN under-secretary-general noted that limited and inadequate economic transformation partly explains why Africa continues to experience jobless growth as the sectors that have been driving its commendable economic performance are mostly capital intensive and generate a limited number of jobs.

“The pressing issue of jobs reminds us of recent developments in North Africa where ICTs were used innovatively to propel demands for democracy, freedom and human rights. Whether we are talking of WikiLeaks, which has changed the nature of diplomacy, or about social networks being used to mobilize popular movements, ICTs have been in the forefront of bringing about change”, Janneh told the conference.

Noting that the traditional uses of ICTs have also grown in leaps and bounds through industrial applications such as mobile banking, electronic billing and global marketing of local services by SMEs, the UN under-secretary-general underscored the need for technological developments that have reduced operational costs, increased market penetration, improved competitiveness of firms and presented new opportunities of growth.

“In order to reduce its vulnerability to external shocks, Africa, indeed, must overcome its current narrow and weak technological and industrial base. It is noteworthy that while primary commodities make up about 80 per cent of Africa’s merchandise exports, the ratio is 54 per cent and 24 per cent in the Latin America and Caribbean region and Asia respectively. Yet, we know for a fact that Africa is unlikely to transform this situation without significant investment in science, technology and innovation.”

CODIST-II, being held under the theme Innovation for Africa’s industrial development, has been organized by ECA in collaboration with the African Union Commission. It includes workshops, a colloquium as well as the Technology in Government in Africa (TIGA) awards.

The Second Session of CODIST will explore the extent to which African countries have harnessed innovation to enhance industrial development on the continent.

The theme of the conference couldn’t have come at a better time. While the impact of the innovation taking place in the ICT sector in Africa is not enough to dent high unemployment, there is nevertheless ample evidence of its potential to drive industrial development if properly used.

“Africa must commit to innovation by exploiting existing knowledge to add value and develop its industrial and technological base. Our continent must create industries that deepen skills and human capital, produce the drugs, vaccines and medical devices needed to bring quality healthcare services to our people, and that enable production of tradable goods that are competitive in regionally integrated markets and also in the global market”, Janneh said.

The four-day conference, which runs from 2-5 May has brought together senior government officials including cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament, National Assembly Speakers as well as Science and Technology experts from the continent and beyond. The Second Session of CODIST also provides a good opportunity to discuss the potential of geospatial and space-related technology for Africa’s development. Notably, advances in space technology have impacted positively on natural resource management, oil and gas, urban planning and in combating climate change.


2011 TIGA award nominees announced

By Michael Ouma

Various institutions and initiatives were on May 2 feted during the third edition of the Technology in Government in Africa (TIGA) awards held at the opening session of the second session of the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology (CODIST II) meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The TIGA awards, launched in 2007 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), are aimed to recognize outstanding achievements by organizations or teams that develop and implement innovative projects to improve online government service delivery (such as service application forms, tax payments, revenue collection, birth & death registration, other forms of government eServices, etc.); with a specific focus on citizens or businesses as clients of government.

The prizes are awarded in three levels - national, provincial and local.

The awards are given in four categories - public service delivery to citizens/communities; improved health services through the use of ICTs; improved educational services through the use of ICTs and Public Private Partnership (PPP) in economic and financial eServices delivery.

During this year’s awards, the various category winners were as follows:

Public Service Delivery: eSoko project – - (Rwanda); Government Online Centre for Enhanced Public Service Delivery – - (Mauritius) with Free and Open Access to Public Legal Information in Kenya – – (Kenya) emerging the overall category winner.

ICTs in Health: mPedigree’s Kenya National Medicine Quality System – www.mPedigree.Net – Kenya; Mali’s FrontLineSMS Medic – and and Cameroun’s Genesis Telecare –

Economic and Financial Services: eTrade Africa – – from Senegal; Federal Road Safety Corps (Drivers License portal) – – from Nigeria and Online Registration and Placement Software – – from Ethiopia.

Honourable mentions were given to: Computer Games for HIV/AIDS prevention in Ugandan Schools – – from Uganda; Planning and Reporting Database for Local Authorities (PlanRep) – from Tanzania; Ghana’s National Switch and SmartCard – and Egypt’s National Payment Gateway –

Speaking at the award’s ceremony, UNECA’s executive director Abdoulie Janneh said that category winners for improved educational services through the use of ICTs would be announced at the Education and Training (eLearning Africa) conference scheduled for May 25 to 27 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Janneh noted that there has continually been an increase in the number of entries to the TIGA awards since it launch, saying that in 2007, there were 36 entries from 17 countries, with the number increasing to 60 entries from 20 countries in 2009.

“The 2011 edition of the awards attracted 89 entries from 24 countries, with over 44 projects being short-listed for the awards, indicating a 40 per cent increase in the number of entries,” said Janneh.

He announced that UNECA would launch a G-Government or Geospatial Government category during the next TIGA awards in 2013.


Daily Press

Friday May 27, 2011
Second Phase of TIGA awards celebrate ‘ICT for Education’ projects at the 6th eLearning Africa event

CODIST-II Thursday May 5, 2011

Closing Remarks by Ms. Jennifer Kargbo -Deputy Executive Secretary Economic Commission for Africa

CODIST II exhibition - exploring new ideas and innovation potential over a cup of coffee

Experts and Policy Makers conclude CODIST II with resounding call to invest in Science Technology Innovation

CODIST-II Wednesday May 4, 2011

African countries need to improve S&T policies and use technologies more effectively – Experts

New trends in ICT could foster industrialization and socio-economic development in Africas

CODIST-II Tuesday May 3, 2011

Janneh calls on Africans to embrace ICTs, while governments undertake the needed investments

ECA underscores science, technology and innovation policies in progress report to Member States

In ECA’s report to member states, policy and regulatory commitment emerge as crucial to ICT progress in Africa

Grand debut for CODIST II as MPs launch African Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation

Global Geospatial Data Resources critical to planning in Africa - Geoinformation experts

CODIST-II Monday May 2, 2011

Launch of Institutional Repository seen as “Milestone in the access and diffusion of information on Africa

For Africa, the future of knowledge sharing lies in open access technologies

Experts deliberate cyber security with growth of Africa’s information economy

Africa: Cybercrime on the Rise as Bandwidth Increases

Sub-Saharan African countries need to increase their critical mass of competent home-grown experts

2011 TIGA award nominees announced