African research and development surveys: highlights from the South African success story
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Science and technology have a major role to play in current and future developments on the African continent as a whole. With the vast array of developmental challenges, current thinking needs to be expanded, so that technologies provide increased and enhanced solutions, such that African scientists produce an African response to the very many shared challenges affecting Africa - both as individual nations and as regards African people collectively. Key to developing an integrated science and technology network, within and across nations, is firstly to understand the extent of research and development (R&D) currently undertaken within individual territories and on the continent as a whole. In light of this, the article examines the value and importance of national surveys of research and experimental development undertaken in Africa. Within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), many member states now have dedicated departments overseeing state science and technology (S&T) development initiatives. South Africa has the most developed science and technology system on the continent. In recent years, other SADC countries like Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia have initiated projects to measure R&D activities within their territories. Despite this, further North, R&D measurement on the continent is uncommon, both as a result and as a cause of underdevelopment.
The article explores the limited data from selected African R&D surveys in an attempt to understand measurement issues that exist and to detail the value and importance of mapping S&T systems and their applications to developmental issues in Africa. In countries like Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, where S&T systems exist, effective means of measurement need to be established, so that the power of these systems can be harnessed, shared and exploited to benefit the African people. To this end, the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (ASTII) initiative was set up at a meeting in Addis Ababa with the aim of delivering a survey of these countries? R&D output and potential. This is eagerly awaited by the African S&T community.
At the forefront of African R&D measurement is the South African national R&D survey, administered by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Being an established survey, the South African team is often called upon by other African nations to support the setting up of surveys. The HSRC also trains visiting African scientists in the delivery of accurate and reliable R&D survey data. This article will, for the first time, present detailed results of the most recent South African national R&D survey (2008/2009), together with a trend analysis of historic South African R&D surveys.
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