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Prioritisation exercise outlines three scientific priorities for Africa


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Prioritisation exercise outlines three scientific priorities for Africa

Prioritisation exercise outlines three scientific priorities for Africa

  • Consultations with scientific experts deliver three outcome reports on climate change and development, food security and nutrition, and gender and science in Africa.
  • The outcome reports inform the scope for priority-setting in these thematic areas to inform national and regional R&D funding and policy decisions

Nairobi, Kenya I 17 December 2020 - The African Academy of Sciences through the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) platform in partnership with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) is today releasing reports that lay the groundwork for an exercise to identify top scientific priorities that, if addressed, will offer the highest return on investment for Africa’s sustainable development and inclusive growth. These are being delivered through the African Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Priority Setting programme (ASP).

Working with AUDA-NEPAD and the AAS, the ASP has taken an expanded role to convene the African science community and political stakeholders over a five-year period to review the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), African Union Agenda 2063, the AU Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 and National Development Plans and help build consensus around which top 10-15 scientific priorities will give African countries the greatest return on investment. Ultimately, the identified scientific priorities will inform investment decisions by African governments and global funders to ensure that technical and financial resources are being directed toward those projects most critical to health and development progress in Africa.

Dr Grace Mwaura, the Programme Manager for ASP says: “R&D policy and funding decisions require evidence and data. Through the AESA platform, we are convening scientists across a broad range of disciplines to engage in the critical work of identifying and validating priorities that when shared with African policymakers and global partners, can influence immediate investments to accelerate our achievement of the sustainable development goals in Africa.”

Prof Aggrey Ambali, Acting Director, Technical Cooperation and Programme Funding at AUDA-NEPAD, says: “We will ensure that the STI priority setting engages policymakers, governments and relevant stakeholders of the African Union member states. Our involvement as AUDA-NEPAD is to make certain that the science generated from the continent address national development needs, informs policy decisions and ensures that the resources from the continent are directed towards continental priorities for maximum Impact.”

Expert consultations
Since 2019, AESA through the ASP programme has been engaging scientists and policy makers in expert consultations on priority areas within the broader themes of climate change, genomics and precision medicine, data and bio specimen governance, gender and science, maternal, neonatal and child health, food security and nutrition, fourth industrial revolution, mental health, and epidemic preparedness.

The engagements inform the scope of the prioritisation exercises resulting in policy papers to inform critical decision making across countries. The policy papers are validated by an advisory panel constituting representatives from African governments, regional economic communities, policy makers and scientists. The outcome reports being released today focus on three expert consultations as follows:

Gender and science
Gender constitutes an important consideration in science, technology and innovation, not only globally, but more especially in Africa where gender roles and responsibilities are highly entrenched in societal norms. Despite women being over 50% of the total global population, they remain grossly underrepresented in science education and subsequently in science careers. The situation is quite dire in Africa, as in some countries less than 15% in science careers are women (UNESCO, 2017). Gender equity has therefore been identified as an important framework for sustainable development, and more so in STI. A consultation event involving diverse gender experts and scientists discussed the status for enhancing gender equity in science in Africa resulting in a set of critical issues to be considered in the prioritization exercise.  These consist of the following:

  • Gender-conscious funding for STI research and programmes
  • Improving women’s leadership in STI
  • Gender-aware and gender-inclusive policies in the STI
  • Address intergenerational transmission of gender bias

Read the report here which informs the ongoing prioritisation work expected to be completed in 2021.

Climate change and development
The effect of climate change is felt across the African continent and has impact on agricultural yields which is the primary source of livelihoods for many people across the continent. In 2019, climate change experts affiliated with the AAS and AESA met to identify and distill priorities in Africa’s climate research capacity as well as in Africa’s climate science and policy interface and outlined four key priorities:

  • African climate data and infrastructure
  • Capacity strengthening of African climate scientists
  • Climate change, environment and development nexus
  • Representation of African climate science in global climate policy processes

Read the outcome report here which already birthed a policy paper that is currently being finalised for publication.

Food security and nutrition
According to a 2018 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization, 257 million people are reportedly malnourished on the African continent, this makes up for approximately 20% of its population. Food security is adversely affected by climate variability, political instabilities, unstable global economies, limited investments in R&D, and pandemics. Consultations with scientists and policymakers have informed a set of scientific priorities to help alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition namely:

  • Ensuring climate-resilient food systems
  • Promoting technologies, innovations, and enterprises for enhancing food security and nutrition security
  • Achieving nutrition and health targets of the African Union
  • Priorities for achieving sustainable commercialization and production of indigenous foods
  • Addressing cross-cutting issues to advance food security and nutrition

Read the outcome report here which has informed a survey and a policy paper both currently under review for publication and validation in 2021.

Other outcomes of the prioritisation exercises
A first wave of scientific priorities was validated and shall be published later this month. These policy papers are in the thematic areas of climate change, data and biospecimen governance, and genomics and precision medicine.

Notes for editors

Africa STI Priority Setting Programme  
The Africa Academy of Sciences in partnership with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), is convening scientists to identify and validate key research priorities for the continent through the AESA platform. Once identified, the AAS will disseminate and advocate for such priorities with an aim to inform investment decisions by African governments and global funders, support rapid and effective alignment of the African scientific leadership and major funding partners, and ultimately direct resources toward those projects deemed most critical to scientific and development progress in Africa. ASP is implemented through AESA and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA)  
The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) is a funding, agenda-setting and programme management initiative created in 2015 through a partnership between the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) in fulfillment of a Decision by General Assembly of African Heads of State and Governments.

AESA’s mission is to shift the centre of gravity for African science to Africa through agenda setting, mobilising Research & Development (R&D) funding, and managing continent-wide Science, Technology & Innovation (STI) programmes that promote the brightest minds; strengthen the best possible science environments in Africa; foster scientific excellence; inspire and mentor emerging research leaders; and accelerate and translate research & innovations into products, policies and practices that will improve and transform lives in Africa.
The African Academy of Sciences  
The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) is a non-aligned, non-political, not-for-profit pan African organisation whose vision is to see transformed lives on the African continent through science. Our tripartite mandate is recognising excellence, providing advisory and think tank functions, and implementing key STI programmes addressing Africa’s developmental challenges. The Academy’s five strategic focus areas include: Environment and climate change; health and wellbeing; natural sciences; policy and governance; and social sciences and humanities

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African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD)
 The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) is the development agency of the African Union, coordinating and executing priority regional and continental development projects to promote regional integration towards the accelerated realization of Agenda 2063 – Africa’s vision and action plan
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