Seven new science academies for least-developed countries

The Network of African Science Academies (NASAC), a 28-member consortium of science academies in Africa, is collaborating with the United Nations Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries (UNTBLDCs) to support the establishment of science academies in seven of the world’s least developed countries by the end of this year.

The UN technology bank is a global organisation created in December 2016 to enhance the contribution of science, technology and innovation (STI) for sustainable development in the world’s 47 least developed countries.

The science academies, to be established in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Malawi, Lesotho, Angola and Sierra Leone, will serve as STI advisors to governments and industry sectors, and assist in directing science and technology policies leading to STI-assisted sustainable development achievements.

Jackie Kado, the NASAC executive director, said the UNTBLDC will support the academies as interlocutors for the realisation of sustainable development goals. Concurrently, NASAC will help in the setting up of science academies in countries where none exist, by lending support to the processes that lead towards establishing an academy as a legal instrument that provides credible science-informed advice to their nations.

Think tanks

“The [named] countries are working on the process of starting academies of science, which are think tanks of top scientists in the country that are identified by their peers, [and] recognised for their excellent scientific work as either members or fellows. The members or fellows of the academy then commit their time and expertise as service to society in order to provide science advice to their government.

“Scientists from all disciplines of science with PhD degrees upwards (natural, social, and pure) are required to provide credible science advice to their nations. For this very reason, the founding fellows/members of the academy are usually experienced, high level and internationally recognised,” Kado told University World News.

Moshe Kao, the UN Technology Bank programme management consultant, said his organisation, by means of its own staff, other United Nations staff, where possible, and contracted experts, will carry out the activities necessary for the creation of new academies and the strengthening of existing academies.

“An academies development specialist has been recruited to support the in-country champions who are the core STI leaders that will be responsible for the development of the academy charters and legal instruments required for the establishment of the academies,” Kao said.

Policy formulation

Between August and September 2020, NASAC held seven virtual meetings for scientists in the identified countries to kickstart the journey towards launching the academies and to make the voice of science heard by policymakers in the respective countries.

A call for scientists in-country and in the diaspora has also been made to enable interested candidates to register.

Kao said last year the UN Technology Bank organised four sub-regional consultations of LDCs in Africa which brought together representatives of government and the scientific community to discuss the role and capacity of academies to support national sustainable development agendas.

According to a 2015 feasibility study for the UN Technology Bank prepared by a panel of experts, most LDCs do not host independent academies of science and their state of STI is poor. Limited resources, including a narrow base of scientific literacy, have contributed to scant generation, diffusion and application of scientific knowledge in the countries.

The study said that even though concerted donor efforts to establish national academics in Africa have been remarkably effective where targeted, very few African LDCs have been identified for such assistance.