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Eighth African Union Summit

22-30 January 2007 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

January 2006

ARC reports

Briefing Note 1
Briefing Note 2

African Union

President of HSGIC: The address by the Chair of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC), Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria, also served as the opening of the sixteenth Summit of NEPAD Heads of State and Government. President Obasanjo noted the achievements NEPAD, including: the identification and assertion of what Africa wants; the disposition of a new resolve to effect home-grown solutions to address conflicts; the commitment to tenants of good governance as the prerequisite to economic development and social progress; and the entrenchment of macro-economic reforms. He also noted ongoing challenges, including the fact that while Africa has rejected poverty and embraced prosperity and good social order, it has not armed itself adequately with the transforming vision and principles of NEPAD to the extent that it could. He said this included the fact that national and regional plans have not been synchronized and aligned to approved NEPAD strategies and plans, resulting in reduced opportunities for coordinated policy review and synthesis of national priorities.

In living up to the NEPAD commitments, HSGIC Chair Obasanjo said AU member states must: continue to critically look inwards for solutions; make necessary adjustments voluntarily; mobilize and engage their citizenry; reach out within Africa to share information and knowledge; assert the continent’s desires when dealing with partners; and convert challenges to opportunity so as to ensure that NEPAD meets Africa’s present and future needs regarding economic development and social progress.

On the integration of NEPAD and the AU, he said that the NEPAD process must be able to sidestep current intergovernmental constraints within the AU Commission, by retaining the expertise, freedom and flexibility of a development-oriented organ that can pre-empt or respond promptly to developmental imperatives. He also said the NEPAD process should continue to make room for Heads of State and Government to take hands-on leadership of the African developmental process as a committee of the AU Assembly, as this would enable them to serve as a vehicle for engaging external partners. To this end, he suggested, some adjustments to the NEPAD Steering Committee would need to be made.

President of Rwanda: In opening, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, underscored the link between S&T and socioeconomic transformation, noting the particular importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) that now link even the most remote rural villages to the rest of the world. He cautioned against allowing a discrepancy to develop between “intentions” and “concrete deeds,” emphasizing that statements of intent must be converted into action. Noting Africa’s low share of world scientists, scientific publications and patents, he highlighted key barriers, including: lack of support for research and development (R&D); brain drain; outdated curricula; impoverished S&T facilities; an absence of direct links between science and industry; and declining knowledge infrastructure.

While noting that the NEPAD Science and Technology Plan, together with resolutions from AMCOST meetings, provide the foundations upon which to launch science, technology and research endeavors, he said hard issues remain, including: spending 1% of GDP on science, technology and research, and how to spend such money efficiently to ensure the greatest impact.

President Kagame outlined that Rwanda has been attempting to incorporate S&T into the execution of its development vision, by implementing the resolution on 1% of GDP on S&T to support science and research institutions, including the teaching of science in schools, and sector-based centers of higher learning and research in agriculture, health, infrastructure, environment and biodiversity. He also noted the commencement of implementing a national policy on science, technology and innovation in 2005, one important goal of which is to increase the number of science students in tertiary institutions to 70% of the student population.

President Kagame also underscored the potential of regional centers and networks for S&T, noting that together, countries within a region can mobilize more resources and engage in more ambitious regional innovations to elevate S&T to a higher and more beneficial status. To this end, he emphasized the need to execute existing resolutions on regional knowledge centers and networks. He concluded by noting the ongoing challenge of creating an enabling environment in which S&T play their rightful role in transforming lives and urged the Assembly to marshal the necessary political will and courage to endow the continent with the vital knowledge required to make Africa a better place.

President of Tunisia: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of Tunisia, noted that the choice of this Summit theme reflects a common determination to join the process of modernization and progress and to keep pace with modern scientific and technological developments.

In highlighting that Africa’s youth are the continent’s most important capital and the symbol of its aspirations for a better future, President Ben Ali stressed the need to: promote their capacities; prepare them to assimilate modern scientific and technological developments; and instill in them a sense of initiative to qualify them to assume their role in serving development. He emphasized the need to further cooperation with international institutions specialized in S&T and to benefit from cooperation in developing and upgrading systems of scientific research in African countries. He also underlined the importance of expanding cooperation and exchange of expertise between African regional bodies acting in the fields of education, scientific research and modern technologies and their counterparts in Arab countries.

President Ben Ali then outlined reforms introduced in Tunisia since 1987 to achieve development in all economic and social dimensions. He noted the special place of scientific research and technology in Tunisia’s development efforts, including the development of technological “poles” to achieve technological development and interaction between research and economic enterprise. He also outlined the conclusion of a cooperation agreement with the UN University for the establishment of a remote training center in Borj Cedria, to provide training to African scientists in the fields of water, the environment, biotechnology and energy.

In stressing the need for Africa to expand its platform of investment in scientific research, reinforce its human resources in infrastructure, and make regional use of its resources, President Ben Ali expressed support for the CPA, as well as the recommendations of the Extraordinary Conference of AMCOST, and called on the Assembly to adopt the recommendations and develop a plan for their implementation.

Prime Minister of Italy: Romano Prodi, Prime Minister of Italy, noted that his presence at the Summit indicated Italy’s commitment to giving Africa a voice and a central place on the world stage. He noted that while Africa is living through a period fraught with contradictions, there are signs of hope that must be seized upon and encouraged. Noting Africa’s political and economic revival, he said that his confidence in Africa is heightened by Africa’s self-confidence – in its political and economic growth and as a great continental institutional community. He noted that the most important event of the past few decades, in terms of political revival has been the process of political and institutional integration spearheaded by the AU.

Prime Minister Prodi noted important areas for cooperation between the EU and the AU, including development, migration, science, international trade, innovation, energy and the environment, citing the recent Euro-African Conference on Migration, research into low-cost vaccines and measures to allow for debt cancellation, as examples. He also outlined areas in which the AU and the EU must “step up the pace,” including matters of innovation, energy and the environment.

On peace and security issues in Africa, he appealed to member states to eschew unilateral decisions and to work, without rhetoric, for agreed solutions to ongoing crises on the continent. In expressing Italy’s commitment to assisting Africa to overcome its challenges, he noted three examples: Italy’s financial contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis; the upcoming opening of the third pole of the International Center for Generic Engineering and Biotechnology, headquartered in Italy, in Africa; and Italy’s commitment to organizing a Somalia Peace Conference as soon as conditions permit it. He concluded by emphasizing the importance of the value of defending life, as an inalienable right and expressed hope for continued cooperation with Africa on a moratorium on capital punishment.

UNESCO Director-General of UNESCO: Koïchiro Matsura, Director-General of UNESCO, said one of the factors preventing Africa from mobilizing its rich resource is the lack of a framework for building and sharing scientific and technological capacity, and noted that the CPA seeks to address this need. He then outlined how UNESCO is lending its support to the CPA, including by: working with many African countries to build good quality science policies, standards and monitoring arrangements; assisting governments in developing policy environments conducive to scientific innovation; and cooperating with other UN agencies, the AU Commission and the RECs to build a critical mass of science policy experts. He also noted UNESCO’s role in developing centers of scientific excellence through the establishment of an AU-NEPAD-UNESCO High-level Group to prepare a programme for creating and funding these centers. He reaffirmed UNESCO’s readiness to cooperate closely with AMCOST, and expressed support for the establishment of an African multi-year fund for implementation of the CPA. He stressed the need to enhance domestic funding and to match such increases with increased international aid.

UNESCO Director-General Matsura emphasized that empowering African countries to become major players in S&T will require investment right across the education sector and expressed UNESCO’s support for efforts to implement the Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education in Africa. He then addressed some of the specific R&D needs addressed in the CPA, including fresh water, biotechnology, bioethics and indigenous knowledge and technologies. He concluded by applauding the decision to place S&T at the heart of the AU’s political agenda, and by expressing support for the remarks of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that the UN system must continue to make Africa a priority.

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