Want India’s help to develop indigenous technology: African Union

By Richa Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : Africa wants India to help it strengthen its human capital in science and technology so that the 54-nation continent can develop indigenous technology instead of buying it from other countries, says Jean Pierre O Ezin, a top African Union official.

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“I somehow hate the notion of technology transfer as we want the technical knowhow so that we can develop our own technology,” Ezin, commissioner, human resources, science and technology, African Union Commission, told IANS in an interview.

The African Union, the political forum that represents the African continent, is in the process of designing its science policy. Its plan of action for science and technology started in 2005.

“What can be exported is knowledge, which can train our people to develop indigenous technology. What we are doing is not just buying technology from India but technical know-how to develop appropriate technology for Africa,” Ezin said.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the March 1-2 India-Africa science and technology ministers conclave that ended here over the weekend.

Ezin opined that India has a “specific window” to help out Africa in the field of science and technology.

“India has its specific window for Africa; it is essentially in the development of human capital, which is the basic need of the region as we are way behind all other continents in terms of number of engineers and scientists. We are very far and countries in other continents are much more advanced,” Ezin said.

He said the continent is working with a specific roadmap to sensitise all 54 member states of the African Union to push science as a tool for economic development and growth.

“We are promoting African Union research grants through which we can form specific laboratories in some areas which are critical for Africa like water and sanitation,” he said.

Explaining the India-Africa cooperation in science and technology, Ezin said: “We are promoting pan-African universities. We are establishing a thematic institution at the post-graduate level and we are working with India in the western Africa region.”

“India will help Africa to create a facility in the field of life and earth sciences, that will be recognised as a pan-African university,” he said.

The foundation of cooperation in science and technology was laid during the India-Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in 2008. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced substantive commitments of India to engage with African nations during the second summit in Addis Ababa in 2011.

The initiative aims to proactively develop science and technology linkages with institutions in African nations and to enhance capacity building and development of human resources in research and development.

“India in 2011 has committed to promote high education institutes in four sectors — information, communication and technology in Ghana, planning and administration in Burundi, foreign trade in Uganda and India-Africa institute for diamonds in Botswana, which is the biggest producer for diamonds in the continent,” he said.

India has committed $5 billion in lines of credit for the next three years to help Africa to achieve its development goals.

An additional $700 million was pledged to establish new institutions and training programmes. Of this, $185 million is in the field of science and technology.

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])