African Union merges science and education bodies
“The decision of the heads of states was also motivated by the need to streamline ministerial conferences, limit their number and confer the power to convene them to the African Union Commission and save costs,” Dr Mahama Ouedraogo, the African Union’s head of human resources, science and technology, told University World News.
Ouedraogo said that with the demise of the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology, or AMCOST, and the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union, or COMEDAF, issues relating to education, science and technology will be addressed by the Specialised Technical Committee on Education, Science and Technology or STC-EST.
The STC met from 19 to 23 October in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the auspices of the African Union Commission, and was attended by 29 African ministers. It will meet once every two years.
Egypt was chosen to chair the bureau of the STC-EST. Nigeria and South Sudan are first and second vice-chairs respectively, while Botswana and Cameroon are rapporteurs. The members of the bureau are ministers drawn from the two sectors.
Ouedraogo said that in addition, specialised technical committees have been empowered to take decisions on issues falling under their competence, except where there are financial or structural implications.
AMCOST last held a meeting in Congo Brazzaville in November 2012, and since then the African Union has launched a 10-year continental science, technology and innovation strategy, STISA-2024.
There is no doubt that the education, science and technology sectors are complementary and should drive Africa’s social and economic development and accelerate the transition of countries to innovation-led, knowledge-based economies, said Ouedraogo.
“A single body will facilitate an holistic view of education, science and technology issues, maximise synergies and place emphasis on innovation in order to change the paradigm in human capital development for the transformation of Africa.” It will also facilitate a common vision for stakeholders in both sectors, which are cross cutting.
Ouedraogo said it is believed that all programmes of the commission related to the two sectors will benefit from the new arrangement.
These include the continental education strategy, the science, technology and innovation strategy, the technical, vocational education and training strategy and all initiatives related to youth empowerment, entrepreneurship, job creation and industrialisation of the continent.
The STC will reduce the number of meetings that would have otherwise been held by the two ministerial conferences. He said the African Union also decided to set up a committee of 10 heads of state who will champion education, science and technology.
“It is foreseen that the STC-EST will also report to heads of state through this committee. This is an opportunity to provide more visibility to the education, science and technology agenda and receive political support at the highest level.”
Ouedraogo said that within the commission, the Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology will be the secretariat as both sectors are within its mandate.
Universities support the merger
Professor Etienne Ehouan Ehile, secretary general of the Association of African Universities or AAU, who was involved in discussions leading up to the formation of the STC-EST, said that the ‘voice for higher education in Africa’ welcomed the move.
“We see the merger as a strategic approach to streamlining advocacy for African higher education. The education, science and technology sectors are complementary and should effectively drive Africa’s social and economic development and accelerate the transition of African countries to innovation-led, knowledge-based economies,” Ehile said.
The AAU would like to see governments prioritise tertiary education across all sectors because there are also special needs in sectors like health, agriculture, peace and others.
“Previously we had to be represented in AMCOST and COMEDAF to articulate the needs of African higher education – which was not an efficient way of working.”
Ehile said the AAU network of 360 universities was positioning itself to respond to the continent’s needs in terms of scientific and human resource capacities.
“The AAU sees this as an opportune time for paradigm shifts in education, training, science and technology development,” he told University World News.
The AAU was an important part of the African Union’s people-centred, long-term Agenda 2063, which is underpinned by education, science and technology as tools to help achieve continental development goals, he concluded.