African scientists pledge to support sustainability agenda

TSHWANE, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 09: Tshwane University of Technology Students produce hand sanitizer to fight COVID 19 during Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande visit to Tshwane University of Technology to assess state of readiness for the phased returning of students to campus on June 09, 2020 in Tshwane, South Africa. The Minister's visit follows the commencement of the COVID-19 level 3 pronouncement by President Ramaphosa. (Photo by Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Scientists drawn from the Sub-Saharan African region on Saturday pledged support for evidence-based policy-making aimed at advancing sustainable development in the continent.

The scientists in a communique released in Nairobi at the end of a two-day virtual summit said that strategic application of research and data is key to tackling poverty, food insecurity, disease and climatic shocks in Africa.

“It is critical for the scientific community to pay attention to the needs of decision-makers and produce evidence that meets their policy needs,” said Eliya Zulu, the executive director of Nairobi-based African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP).

More than 400 African scientists attended the virtual conference dubbed “Strengthening the think-tank role of researchers in supporting government decision making for better development outcomes”.

The scientists shared knowledge and best practices that can be harnessed to influence development of policies that advance inclusive growth, peace and stability in the continent.

Zulu said the conference that was convened by AFIDEP and African Academy of Sciences (AAS) injected fresh impetus on data-driven policy interventions to address Africa’s under-development, health and ecological challenges.

“This is the only way the research that we do can impact communities and transform lives,” said Zulu, adding that capacity building for African scientists is key to enhancing their contribution to the continent’s sustainability agenda.

Tom Kariuki, director of programs at the AAS affiliated Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) said that adequate funding for scientific research is key to transforming livelihoods amid COVID-19 related challenges.

“We need to prioritize funding for scientific research on fields that promote sustainability in the continent. The new research priorities should address challenges that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kariuki.

He said that access to research grants, training, mentorship and networking will enhance the capacity of African scientists to influence development outcomes in the continent.

Isayvani Naicker, director of strategy and partnerships at AAS said that Africa has the potential to become a hub for ground-breaking scientific research subject to the establishment of conducive policies, adequate funding and training.