Despite the fact that many African countries still have quite a way to go to meet the United Nation’s (UN)sustainable development goals (SDG’s) by 2030, the role science academies could play, is becoming more urgent in order to drive sustainable and inclusive development, while at the same time, protect human rights and the environment.
One of the reasons for procrastination on the African continent is that not enough countries are supporting rigorous research or developing policies driven by accurate scientific evidence. Policymakers, scientists and knowledge providers, such as science academies and research houses should work together to drive evidence-informed policymaking, which is now more important than ever.
A new report calls on African governments to invest in and apply science, engineering and medicine more systematically to address SDG’s. It also encourages the continent’s science community to be more proactive in accelerating Africa’s development.
The report was compiled by the InterAcademy Partnership, a global network of more than 140 science, engineering and medicine academies. One of the report’s key recommendations is that science training academies have a crucial role to play in developing ways for scientists to engage more effectively with the African Union AU) and UN at continental, regional and national levels.
Science academies represent some of their countries’ best scientists and operate independently of governments. The academies already collaborate on issues of local, regional and global importance such as food security, climate change, health and water security.
On the continent there are 27 nationally established science academies in 27 African countries and new academies in another 13, with the latter catering for academics starting their careers.
In keeping with the report’s focus on science academies, it was formally released at a special workshop hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) which deals with SDG 6: clean water and sanitation.
The report’s central recommendations:
- A call for policymakers and science academies to work together ensuing that evidence informs policy formulation, implementation and review;
- more opportunities for bringing scientists and policymakers together such as through fellowships or secondments;
- programmes engaging the African science diaspora and development of science policy leadership should be scaled up and,
- cooperation between academies of established senior and early career young scientists should be strengthened. Young academies are especially effective at engaging with universities, schools and the public.
Should these recommendations be adopted, it would place the science community in a strong position to ensure that the best, most appropriate science in African countries aids the continent’s development. This would see policymakers formulate policies that work.
Ultimately, it is anticipated that this report will help the continent’s science community navigate its way around the complex policy mechanisms and processes of the UN, AU and national governments. It will empower policymakers to navigate their way around the complex science landscape, resulting in various communities talking with each other, benefitting not only Africa, but the global science community.