A new facility has been launched to enhance Africa’s capabilities in the areas of science, technology and innovation. The initiative is the product of a collaboration involving the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Stellenbosch University (SU).
Called the Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation (AUDA-NEPAD CoE-STI), aims to upscale and commercialise home-grown innovations on the continent.
It is one of five similar centres, which the African Union’s (AU) uses as tools to leverage knowledge and science-enabled innovations to support and accelerate the implementation of the union’s ‘Agenda 2063’. The other centres of excellence are focused on strategic areas ranging from:
- rural resources and food systems
- climate resilience
- human capital and institutions development and
- supply chain and logistics.
Through this unique partnership the AUDA-NEPAD CoE-STI aims to tap into the continent’s research and science capabilities and link it to its policy implementation as well as respond to development priorities.
According to the partners, over 40 home-grown innovations have already been identified. These come out of long-running programmes in SU and CSIR, and represent widely tested and proven technologies ready for upscaling and commercialisation across the continent. The innovations also cover a wide spectrum of solutions in areas such as health, renewable energy, agriculture, water, and sanitation to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the continent.
Daan du Toit from the ministry of higher education, science and innovation said establishing science, technology and innovation (STI) capabilities for accelerated and sustainable growth and development, is a strategic priority for South Africa’s 10 year STI plan. He said South Africa is honoured to host the new centre of excellence and that the department of science and innovation (DSI is looking forward to co-operate with and also build on the historic support for the pan-African science programmes.
Said duToit: “South Africa is, thus, honoured to host the new Centre of Excellence, which the Department of Science and Innovation is looking forward to cooperate with, building on our historic support for pan-African science programmes. The Centre of Excellence should also serve as catalyst for enhanced and deepened intra-African co-operation, responding to the challenges presented by Covid-19 and leveraging opportunities such as the new African Continental Free Trade Area.”
Added AUDA-NEPAD’s chief executive, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki: “The Covid-19 crisis has shown that Science, Technology and Innovation play a vital role in fighting the devastating impact of the pandemic. The continent needs to look inwards to develop, strengthen and upscale innovations that could help fight the pandemic and build greater resilience in the post-Covid era.
Through the CoE-STI partnership with CSIR and SU, AUDA-NEPAD is proud to act as a channel to connect African innovators to governments and clients to roll-out and localise these home-grown solutions. The AUDA-NEPAD Centres of Excellence will bring innovative and agile solutions to scale in critical sectors affected by the pandemic.”
CSIR’s Thulani Dlamini also applauded the establishment of the centre saying it signifies the beginning of a huge task of unearthing innovations on the continent. He said in addition to discovering new innovations, the aim is also to make sure that they contribute to alleviating the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality in Africa.
“Our partnership with AUDA-NEPAD and Stellenbosch University will boost Africa’s research, development and innovation (RDI) capacity, as well as contribute to the development of technologies and their deployment for socio-economic transformation in Africa,” Dlamini.
Professor Wim de Villiers, SU rector and vice-chancellor, expressed excitement about the partnership and the collaboration. “If we work together, the possibilities of what we can achieve are endless. Africa driving its own agenda, converting its enormous potential into actual products and services making a positive difference to the lives of our continent’s 1.3 billion people is not a far-fetched idea”, said de Villiers.
The AUDA-NEPAD CoE-STI also provides a platform for supporting and sourcing of funding and other resources for the up-scaling, dissemination and localisation of proven innovations from research and partner organisations, said the tripartite.
In addition, the centre will connect African-driven knowledge and research hubs with other knowledge and research ecosystems across the continent. It will act as a platform for innovators, said the statement, to access alternative options regarding how to reach their clients when rolling out new solutions.