Professor Edward Ayensu, Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), yesterday urged African Leaders to stop paying lip service to the usage of science and technology to propel the Continent forward.
He said science and technology could be used effectively to achieve desired results only if the scientists were well equipped and financed to do their work within the desired environment.
Speaking at the opening of the 10th Ministerial Forum, on "Frontier Environmentally Sound Technologies (FEST) for Africa's Sustainable Development: The Role of the Diaspora", he said most African Leaders had often ignored the need to finance and equip scientific institutions to levels that would enable them work to meet the challenges of the time. "How can science and technology be used in propelling the Continent from a developing status to that of a developed one, when scientists are not provided with even the basic tools they need to undertake research and work to achieve results?" he asked.
Professor Ayensu said taking into consideration the huge investments needed in the training of scientists and the lack of a conducive working environment at the end of their training in most African countries, the scientists could not be blamed for the mass exodus they are undertaking after their training to developed countries, where they were equipped to work effectively. "The time has come for us to stop the talk shops and come out with pragmatic solutions to changing the fortunes of the Continent since there are large numbers of scientists in the Diaspora, who can help the Continent to become a giant too," he said.
Professor Ayensu, who was addressing about 86 delegates from some African countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, The Gambia and the Diaspora, said the 'Asian Tigers' had reached where they were because their Leaders had been committed to their developmental agenda. He therefore, appealed to leaders of the Continent especially the politicians to chart a new course for the Continent's advancement through the institution of pragmatic policies that would put science and technology in a new light, and to make its usage the envy of all.
The three-day forum being hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Science and the African Regional Centre for Technology (ARCT) based in Senegal, is set to serve as a platform for information dissemination, sensitization and high-level discussions on the role of the Diaspora to promote technological capacity building and sustainable development of Africa.
Ms Christine Churcher, Minister for Environment and Science, said the Continent's development initiatives over the past decade had to a large extent shown significant orientation towards growth.
This she noted, was however, nowhere near the standards and achievements of the Asian Tigers or South East Asian nations, who were now setting the pace for most developing countries.
Ms Churcher said this pace setting agenda called for a deeper collaboration between politicians and scientists in Africa and the Diaspora to work assiduously towards meeting the challenges set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which when critically observed related to Africa more than any other continent.
"There is the need to halve poverty and hunger by 2015, provide universal basic education, promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality by two-thirds among children under five, reduce maternal mortality by 75 per cent, combat HIV/AIDS, which has plagued Sub-Saharan Africa more than any other region, combat malaria and other diseases and ensure environmental sustainability".
Ms Churcher said Africans needed to assert themselves in sustainable development issues, they needed to harness their own expertise for improvement in all the dimensions of sustainable development including economic, social, environment and many more.
She said the Ministry in collaboration with the African Regional Centre for Technology, had identified that the link with Africans in the Diaspora would leapfrog Africa to it desired developmental agenda. "Our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, many of whom have gained prominence and are at the forefront in their fields of specialization, can be the bridge which Africa needs to cross to reach the brighter world of at least a middle income status," she said.
Ms Churcher said the debate that the Continent's rapid progress did not rest in re-inventing the wheel but in exploiting frontiers of emerging technologies had began and should be exploited by all.
Dr Duoda Toure, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Ghana, said migration and issues of the Diaspora needed to be part and parcel of Africa's development strategy due to both the challenges it posed and the opportunity it could offer if well managed.
He said internationally the interest in migration as a crucial dimension in the development process was rapidly growing and a recent report estimated that the number of migrants worldwide stood at 200 million with their official remittances valued at 232 billion dollars, which was more than twice the level of development aid from all sources.
Dr Toure therefore, challenged the delegates to take the issue of linking up with their members in the Diaspora more seriously for collaboration towards the developmental needs of the Continent.