Strengthening Science, Technology and Innovation Systems for Sustainable Development in Africa

On 7 October 2020, UNESCO, represented by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Saux, Director of the Bureau of Strategic Planning, and Sweden, represented by Mr Mikael Schultz, Deputy Permanent Delegate of Sweden to UNESCO, signed a pathbreaking agreement to support science, technology and innovation in Africa. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director General for the Natural Science Sector and Magnus Magnusson, representing Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director General for the Social and Human Science Sector, Pia Engstrand, Sida’s focal point for UNESCO (through virtual connection) were also present at the ceremony and will jointly oversee the implementation of this initiative.

The Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) will provide funding in the amount of 25 million Swedish kronor over two years (2020-2022) to support the first phase of a major initiative within UNESCO’s global framework for monitoring, policy support and advocacy for the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers, adopted by the General Conference in 2017.

Focusing on African needs and priorities and in line with the African Union Agenda 2063 ‘The Africa we want”, the Sida funding will support UNESCO in strengthening science, technology and innovation systems and governance in selected African countries.

Science, technology and innovation (STI) are universally recognized as key drivers for poverty eradication and essential components for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, to make STI work for the society, appropriate STI policy frameworks and participatory forms of governance need to be developed and reinforced. In this regard, UNESCO supports countries’ efforts to reform and upgrade national STI systems and governance. Ultimately, stronger science, technology and innovation systems will enable African societies to attain greater inclusivity and resilience through enhanced capacity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union 2063 Development Agenda. The aim is to identify effective approaches, mechanisms, strategies and policies for applying science, technology and innovation to development in Africa.

The novel coronavirus offers up a powerful and extremely clear lesson about the appropriate role of science in helping to guide us toward a better future. Across the world, governments are replying on the science to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Science is essential to address not only the impact of the COVID pandemic, but also to address all societal challenges, and global threats, including climate change, inequalities and biodiversity loss.

The world needs science to make sense of and respond to developmental challenges. And science needs qualified and committed scientists working in strong science institutions. The UNESCO 2017 Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers provides an

operational vision of how science can be mobilised for a better world, as well as a normative and monitoring framework for well-functioning, rights-based national STI systems able to promote evidence-informed policies and strategies. In working with UNESCO to make the Recommendation a lever for positive change throughout Africa, Sida is furthering its core development priorities.

The “Strengthening Science, Technology and Innovation Systems for Sustainable Development in Africa” project will kick off in October 2020. Implemented jointly by UNESCO’s Sectors for Natural Science and for Social and Human Sciences, in close collaboration with the field network in Africa, the project will mobilize capacities and competences throughout the Organization. It provides a solid template for collaboration with other donors, technical partners and stakeholders that share the vision to which Sida and UNESCO have jointly committed.