A key objective of this project is to create opportunities for science advice in Africa, in the context of the continent's implementation of the SDGs and the AU continental plan for STI (STISA2024), and how academies in particular can play a more active role. But do we know enough to be able to do this?
This was the task for the second Working Group meeting held in Addis Ababa on 27-28 February, co-organised with the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences - with thanks to its President, Professor Tsige Gebre-Mariam, and his team for their kind hospitality, and the Carnegie Foundation of New York for its generous sponsorship.
The Group heard from Dr Mahama Ouedraogo (Head of Division, Human Resources, Science and Technology Department, African Union Commission), Dr Chux Daniels (Member of the AU Commission’s Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of STISA 2024), Professor Bernard Slippers (Professor in Genetics at the University of Pretoria and founding member of the Global Young Academy and South African Young Academy of Science) and Dr Evelyn Namiburu-Mwaura (Strategy and Policy Manager, African Academy of Sciences).
In addition to this oral evidence, the project draws on a survey of the academies (senior and young) which seeks to understand how they see their role in supporting AU's continental plan for STI (STISA 2024) and the continent's implementation of the SDGs, what they have been doing to-date, and how they think they can best contribute to these agendas in future. The survey has highlighted a number of questions (for example, is there an element of "retrofitting" academy work to policy issues?) which are being followed up with all academies to encourage those who did not originally contribute to do so; to test observations and assumptions; and to build a repository of relevant (inter)academy reports and initiatives. The survey will be posted online on completion. In parallel, mapping work is being developed into an online navigation tool for the academies and other interested parties, to help them better understand and contribute to support systems for STISA 2024 and the SDGs.
Whilst the projects are at a relatively early stage, the survey response and wider stakeholder feedback have indicated that this work is both necessary and timely. Senior and young academies alike have shown a willingness to support the AU's Agenda 2063 and the SDGs, but have indicated the need to promote better awareness and understanding of the systems and coordination mechanisms underpinning them.
A work programme is underway, focusing on (i) helping to raise their awareness of the AU’s continental plan for STI (STISA 2024) and the AU system supporting it; (ii) raising the profile, and in some cases supporting, their science policy work where it is pertinent to STISA 2024; (iii) exploring opportunities for more active and effective engagement at the national, regional and continental level – including building links with AU, NEPAD and Regional Economic Communities (RECs); and (iv) developing ways of engaging African diaspora and building science leadership.