Fbae Logo
Home | | Support Us | Contact Us
Goals & Objectives Our Position False Propaganda Special Topics Important Links Events News Biosafety
Fbae Header Home





Agricultural Innovation and Economic Growth in Africa: Renewing Iternational Cooperation
Calestous Juma Int J Technology and Globalisation, 2008, Vol. 4, No.3, pp. 256 - 275. Excerpted below

Rising food prices and the associated political upheavals have rekindled interest in international cooperation on food security in particular and economic development in general. This paper argues that efforts to promote food security in sub-Saharan Africa need take into account three key issues: food security is inseparable from economic development; science and innovation are a necessary part of economic development; universities in most countries are engines of development and must be so in Africa as well. Industrialised countries and Africa should to forge long-term cooperation in advancing specific technology missions in fields such as biotechnology.

5.4 Collaborating on new technology missions Capturing the wave of emerging technologies is an effective way to galvanise cooperation between African and industrialised countries. The USA, for example, has a long history of using its technological pre-eminence to bolster economic strength among its South East Asian allies. Efforts to promote the migration of the semi-conductor industry to South East Asian countries such as South Korea and Taiwan are an illustration of this (Hung et al., 2006).20 Similarly, the Green Revolution was an act of science and innovation diplomacy (Juma, 2005).21 Today, emerging fields of biological innovations (which include the application of living
processes to economic activities in fields such as agriculture, health, industry and environment) represent new opportunities for cooperation between the USA and Africa (Juma, 2002).22

But exploration of technology missions should not be limited to biological innovations. In addition to information and telecommunications technologies, there are extensive opportunities to collaborate in a wide range of infrastructure related fields such as energy and transportation as well as others. Biological innovations are therefore used here purely to illustrate emerging opportunities.

Cooperation in biological innovations can build on the High Level Panel on Modern Biotechnology of the AU and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) (Juma and Serageldin, 2007).23 Its report, Freedom to Innovate: Biotechnology in Africa's Development, proposes a 20-year African Biotechnology Strategy with specific regional technology goals to be implemented through the RECs and to develop and harmonise national and regional regulations that promote the application and safe use of modern biotechnology. The African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) has already endorsed the proposal.

The panel's main recommendations include the need for individual countries in central, eastern, western, northern and southern Africa to work together at the regional level to scale up the development of biotechnology. It focuses on the key role of clusters of expertise, sharing knowledge, creative ideas, and personnel, and working on problems and projects collaboratively.

The report also recommends the need to:
* outline priority areas in biotechnology that are of relevance to Africa's development * identify critical capabilities needed for the development and safe use of biotechnology
* craft appropriate regulatory measures to advance research, commercialisation, trade and consumer protection
* offer strategies for creating and building regional and local biotechnology initiatives in Africa.

The report pays particular attention to the role human capabilities and institutional innovation. It calls for reforms in existing knowledge-based institutions, especially universities, to serve as centres of diffusion of new biotechnologies into the economy. It stresses the need to develop and expand national and regional human resources development strategies that include:

* biotechnology curricula that focus on specific areas and targets that offer high economic potential for the regions and the continent
* a consortium of clearly identified and designated universities that develop and offer regional biotechnology training courses
* a focus on female recruitment in the sciences and engineering.

Much of the biotechnology knowledge for Africa's development is currently available in Africa and other parts of the world. But Africa lacks appropriate institutions that can search, identify acquire and
transform such knowledge in goods and services. This is a primary function of the modern African university (Bell and Juma, 2007)

6 Conclusion

Africa may not have benefited from the Green Revolution partly because its institutional arrangements were not in tune with what was possible in Africa. But changes in African governments, the explosive growth in scientific and technical knowledge, and the availability of inspirational institutional models now make, it possible for the USA and Africa to forge new partnerships.

Indeed, African countries are starting to redesign their economic policies with technological considerations in mind. Much of the new thinking has been inspired by the rapid diffusion of practical applications in the information and telecommunications technologies. Mobile phones, for example, have had discernible impacts on communication. Many countries are looking for equivalents of the mobile phone for other sectors such as energy, agriculture, industry and transportation. Many of them are starting to reflect these factors in their foreign policy.

Industrialised countries are in a better position than any other country to lead in forging partnerships with Africa designed to transfer skills and knowledge. Demand for higher education is exploding in Africa, and assistance by these countries would be greatly welcomed. Such an effort would serve the needs of both diplomacy and food security by providing funding for cooperation in agricultural science and in education and training in general, perhaps specifically to enable industrialised country universities to pair with African counterparts. Working together will allow industrialised country researchers and their African counterpart to adapt today's knowledge to African conditions and will effectively transfer skills. It will also expand cooperation with other universities around the world with relevant experiences. This is a historical opportunity that the industrialised countries and Africa
cannot afford to miss, for the health of millions of people, for economic development.

(Juma is at Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA).