The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has called for collaboration among governments, public enterprises, universities and the private sector to address Africa’s socio-economic problems.
Citing research and innovation as key to addressing the continent’s problems of poverty, food insecurity, drought, unemployment and health, among others, NEPAD said the continent has to come up with sustainable home-grown solutions.
The delegates hosted by NEPAD and the National Commission for Science , Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) have been in Nairobi for a five-day workshop to assess models used by Kenya in its development agenda.
Speaking when he officially launched the workshop, NACOSTI chief executive officer Dr Moses Rugutt said there is need for the Africa to use data generated by its own entities as evidence for designing appropriate development interventions.
“When at times you look at the statistics we have and compare with what is happening on the ground, you actually doubt the data. We need data generated from African entities, and collected and analysed by African professionals to help us advance”, Rugutt said.
He called for collaborative research and use of reliable data among universities, research organisations, private sector and governments to produce tangible outcomes.
Rugutt noted that Kenya is carrying out job evaluations of its workforce and the survey’s findings will be released next month.
“The Salaries and Remunerations Commission (SRC) is about to finish the evaluation exercise so that we pay each cadre according to their qualifications and contributions to the society’s well-being,” Rugutt said.
He added, “The initial SRC report put parliamentarians at position 42, meaning their salaries shouldn’t be the highest. But they changed everything and only evaluated themselves on whether they are above 18 years and of sound mind and now earn the highest salaries.”
Dr Tichaona Mangwende, Head of Research & Statistics Cluster at NEPAD, said Science, Technology, Innovation and Research are key to creating public and socio-economic value thereby improving the livelihoods of African people.
“We want African economies to transition from being commodity-based to innovation-led knowledge-based economies. Focus should be on adding value to commodities so that they are more competitive on the market”, Mangwende said.
He noted that research, development, innovation and entrepreneurship are key for generating new knowledge and turning knowledge into new products and services that capture the market.
“Universities, public enterprises, private sector create knowledge. But they should improve on management of ideas, effectively converting these ideas into services or products that increase market share and profits”, Mangwende said.
He encouraged African intellectuals and institutions to reach out to ordinary people and communities they are supposed to serve.
“Africa is already working harder but we need to work smarter and differently. Universities don’t go to the people. The professors spend their time in laboratories and offices. There is urgent need to take the universities to the people. Universities and public research institutions should partner with the people, know their problems and tailor their courses and other interventions to solving societal problems”, Mangwende said.
Citing devolution in Kenya, Mangwende said counties and municipalities have budgets for service delivery, if approached with bankable ideas and projects, they can partner with universities to enhance socio-economic development efforts.
“Counties have budgets for service delivery and universities have the brains and ideas. They can partner to provide sustainable solutions to intractable challenges such as waste management and water treatment, electricity production, transport and health provision. Universities should offer programmes that use data generated by entities in Kenya and design interventions that respond to societal needs. More often, impact is achieved and witnessed when projects are designed and implement together with stakeholders who are most and directly affected by the problems. Taking relevant solutions to where they are needed most”, Mangwende said.
Dr Ereck Chakauya, Network Manager at the NEPAD Southern Africa Network for Bio-sciences, said Africa needs its own data to know where they are and what they need to do in the future.
“We need to collect data, spend more time analysing the data and deriving useful insights to set the agenda for development. We need to give insightful information to politicians and decision makers so that they use the information to formulate policies that solve our problems”, Chakauya said.
He said Africa’s challenges such as poor nutrition and recurrent droughts can be solved by Africans based on evidence collected by researchers.
“Africa is still hungry. We like things that we don’t have more than what we have. Many Africans do subsistence farming. We only need to make it better. Science should help us understand that the health of our children is more than having full stomachs. The quality of the food we eat is important”, Chakauya said.