African Scientific Cooperation and Partnership Strengthened
Future African-wide scientific cooperation and partnership were strengthened when science organisations met with the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) last week to introduce their activities and elaborate on their individual roles in shaping informed science advice for evidence based policy making on the continent.
The PAP is an organ of the African Union (AU) aimed at ensuring participation of African people in the development and economic integration of the continent. Science, technology and innovation (STI) have been recognised as critical for development and are regarded as one of the main pillars of creating sustainability, prosperity and economic wealth. Cross-cutting in nature, STI contribute to the achievement of all socio-economic development objectives, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets and the AU’s Agenda 2063 pillars. The SDGs and Agenda 2063 have a broad sustainability agenda that aim to address causes of poverty and underdevelopment. Investments in STI are vital to improve competitiveness, promote economic growth and employment while addressing pressing global challenges, such as climate change, energy security, infectious diseases, and food and nutrition security.
The meeting was initiated by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and was aimed at demonstrating the coordinated roles and responsibilities of ASSAf and two of its key strategic partners, the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC), based in Nairobi, and the International Council for Science Regional Office for Africa (ICSU ROA), hosted by ASSAf in strengthening the uptake of Science Advice in Africa and promoting regional integration in the context of research collaboration.
Members of the PAP Committee on Transport, Industry, Communication, Energy, Science and Technology had an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the benefits that collaboration among scientific organisations holds for African science.
ICSU ROA, established in September 2005, is one of three regional offices, with the main headquarters in Paris, France. The mandate of the regional office is to ensure that the voice of African scientists influences the international agenda and that scientists from the continent are fully involved in international research guided by regional priorities. ICSU’s Executive Director, Dr Heide Hackmann, welcomed the opportunity to engage the PAP, noting that it provided an opportunity to strengthen and synergise continental activities of both ICSU, NASAC, PAP and national Academies of Science such as ASSAf.
NASAC, which has a membership of 22 African national science academies was able to highlight its role in initiating academies in countries which do not yet have academies. PAP members whose countries are not yet represented in NASAC were encouraged to support the initiation of academies in their countries.
The Department of Science and Technology’s Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation, Mr Daan du Toit, stressed the importance of organisations with a similar mandate to work together for the benefit of science in Africa. For this reason the Department was strongly committed to supporting ASSAf in its hosting of the ICSU ROA and in contributing to the work of NASAC. He congratulated ASSAf, the ICSU ROA and NASAC on a successful engagement, which will pave the way for an increased focus by the PAP on the role of STI in advancing Africa’s development and competitiveness agenda.
Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) celebrates its 20th year as official academy of South Africa this year.
ASSAf was inaugurated in May 1996. It was formed in response to the need for an Academy of Science consonant with the dawn of democracy in South Africa: activist in its mission of using science and scholarship for the benefit of society, with a mandate encompassing all scholarly disciplines that use an open-minded and evidence-based approach to build knowledge.
ASSAf thus adopted in its name the term 'science' in the singular as reflecting a common way of enquiring rather than an aggregation of different disciplines. Its Members are elected on the basis of a combination of two principal criteria, academic excellence and significant contributions to society.
The Parliament of South Africa passed the Academy of Science of South Africa Act (Act 67 of 2001), which came into force on 15 May 2002. This made ASSAf the only academy of science in South Africa officially recognised by government and representing the country in the international community of science academies and elsewhere.
Source: Issued by the Department of Science and Technology, the Academy of Science of South Africa, the International Council for Science and the Network of African Science Academies.