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African Union debates measures to strengthen science

The European Union is not the only bloc examining how to boost a continent's science and technology prowess. At a meeting convened by the African Union, scientists and politicians proposed a raft of measures aimed at advancing science in Africa, from more flexible visa laws to...

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The European Union is not the only bloc examining how to boost a continent's science and technology prowess. At a meeting convened by the African Union, scientists and politicians proposed a raft of measures aimed at advancing science in Africa, from more flexible visa laws to the creation of a continent-wide scientific advisory committee.

The delegates put forward 50 individual suggestions, from which 10 will be selected and submitted to a meeting of African science and technology ministers in Cairo, Egypt, SciDev.Net reports.

If approved the list will then be presented at the next African Union (AU) Heads of State meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January.

'To change the face of Africa, this is the chance,' said Nagia Essayed, AU Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology. 'We might not have enough financial resources, but unless we put our money into this, we won't get others to believe in us.'

The proposals put forward by delegates included increasing national science and technology investment to 1% of GDP; facilitating the transfer of funds from Africans overseas; strengthening intellectual property rights to encourage innovation; establishing research centres for developing local technologies; and upgrading science and technology education in schools.

The conference, attended by over 120 scientists and politicians from almost all of the AU's 53 member states, resulted in a declaration. Governments are urged to 'create favourable conditions for mobility of scientists, engineers and technicians' by introducing more flexible visa laws for scientists and dedicating future summits to science, technology and innovation.