La BAD s'engage à soutenir l'éducation scientifique et technique pour impulser la croissance économique et la création d'emplois

07/06/2011
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Africa has enjoyed healthy growth over recent year, but to help maintain this growth, it needs to harness Science and Technology Innovations (STI).  That means training people for STI, integrating into the global market, and preparing to compete hard in a world fueled by information and driven by knowledge, experts said at the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) on 6 June, 2011.

Addressing a forum at the Meetings held in Lisbon, Mr Boukary Savadogo, the Division Chief  Education at AfDB, stressed that African countries need to find better ways of unlocking the potential that science and technology have for development.  

In particular, this means boosting investment in higher education and focusing more on science and technology in colleges.

“In our particular case we want to use the entire education system to help promote science and technology,” said Mr Savadogo.  

Mr Savadogo said the Bank will increase support to higher education institutions to improve the relevance and quality of training, through its Higher Education, Science and Technology (HEST) strategy

HEST, he explained, aims at helping develop strategies to tackle the high levels of unemployment among graduates, support partnerships and develop knowledge networks.  

Mr Savadogo continued: “We want to promote STIs at all levels of the education system because we feel that excellence in STI does not begin at the higher education level; in fact it makes sense to help even children at primary level to start developing a passion for science and technology so that by the time they reach secondary they are already convinced of the importance of science and technology.”

Adopted in 2008, the Bank’s HEST Strategy recognizes the need to transform higher education systems in order to increase the competitiveness of African economies.   

Professor Romain Murenzi, current Executive Director of  TWAS -  Academy of Sciences for the Developing World  and former Minister of Science and Technology of Rwanda,  emphasized that more investment in STI development will not only help bridge the Africa’s knowledge gap but also sustain economic growth through job creation.

“STI is the only way to be able to have long-term economic growth; it is important that people be taught how to innovate as early as possible,” he said.   

The professor also noted that countries must invest in human capital development and technology, as many other regions of the world have done, and are continuing to do so to be competitive and achieve good economic growth.   

He added that the competitive advantage of investing in STI was not a new phenomenon.
“Between the 1820s and the 1860s,  Argentina and the USA were at a par on economic growth,  but the US invested in science and technology and became the  giant of the world,  and most of the growth came from the development of science and technology,”

He emphasized the need for countries to increase investment in the development of research capabilities, knowledge creation and Information Technology infrastructure, such as broadband, to achieve sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

However, he stressed the need for national ownership and leadership to successfully implement policies and strategies as well as make the much-needed investment in STI infrastructure.   

He cited the example of Rwanda’s deployment of 2,300km of fiber optic cable across the country.  
“If a small country like Rwanda can invest in fiber optic, any country can do it - this will make a huge difference.  It is very important that the top leadership understands the importance of STIs,” he said, referring to President Paul Kagame’s commitment to STI development as a key driver for economic progress in the country.

Mr Paul Ginies, the Director General of 2ie Foundation, International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering, Burkina Faso, also pointed out the importance of STI investment in job creation.

“The priority in Africa is employment.  We have to guarantee that graduates have access to jobs not just diplomas/degrees.”  

Professor Mohamed Hassan, TWAS Treasurer, Co-chair of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, emphasized the need to revitalize Africa’s national higher education institutions to boost the development of STIs.  

This, he said, should be complemented by investment in the establishment of national centres of excellence for information technology to serve as conduits for the development of STIs.  
“STI has not helped because of poor capacity in developing countries.  An effort should be made to interest students in scientific careers by developing their skills.”  

Dr Agnes Soucat, AfDB’s Director of Operations, Human Development, emphasized the need to transform Africa’s higher education systems to help produce entrepreneurs that will create jobs.   
“Most of the universities on the continent still carry the legacy of being universities that train civil servants, but the civil service cannot be the only job opportunity for the people of tomorrow, especially if you have an increasing number of graduates,” she said, supporting the need to increase investment in STIs.   

While enrolments in higher education in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) are estimated to reach almost 10 million by 2020, graduate unemployment is increasing.  It is projected to reach an average of 37 percent in SSA countries, with peaks nearing 50 percent by 2020.  

Those alarming forecasts highlight the pressing need for strategies and policies to bridge the gap between skills and labor market demands.