Why should ACP countries give high priority to S&T
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Audia Barnett. 2004. Why should ACP countries give high priority to S&T. Knowledge for Development. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/63762
National development is driven by a multiplicity of factors, ranging from the natural and human resource base to macroeconomic policies and trade. These factors are in turn sensitive to many other externalities, including social or political conditions at regional and international levels. In short, national development is directed by and yet extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of the world. At the international level, many economic and geographical alliances are emerging, all of which are linked by a common language, S&T. Can S&T positively influence national development in ACP countries? The answer is a resounding YES.
A culture of S&T evidenced through clear policies and strategies can provide a useful indicator for interested investors and donors and S&T can provide a structured, rational basis for planning and can add value to traditional economic activities. Structured, rational basis for planning Science and technology should be appreciated not only in terms of their value as tools, but also for the logic, discipline and organization they can confer on many activities. Science is methodical and objective, yielding information and knowledge based on the analysis and interpretation of empirical data through observation and rational reasoning. In view of the numerous factors involved in the path of achieving national development, many inherent challenges must be overcome in the process of planning and the successful implementation of development plans. However, with a strong S & T culture, those plans would be based on clear policies derived from analysis of historical and current data, local priorities, international trends, the socio-economic climate in the country, along with a myriad of other variables required for success. Adding value to traditional economic activities Agriculture and tourism are significant sectors of the economies of many ACP countries. They offer additional benefits, including employment creation and the possibility of utilizing traditional knowledge. Scientific and technological advances in agriculture and agro-processing have had enormous impact; enabling farmers to cultivate marginal lands and improve yields and the quality of produce and contributing to the development of a plethora of value-added products. Similar applications of S & T to indigenous food systems by ACP scientists can improve food security and in turn, the quality of life in ACP countries. That tourism is undergoing a ‘metamorphosis’ is an understatement. Changes are evident in many tourist destinations, which are now catering to the growing demand for ‘tourism products’ with strong heritage/cultural and environmental features. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have played an important role in the marketing and promotion of tourism packages and could further increase the efficiency and the quality of tourism products and services. Furthermore, if S&T were to be included in national development plans, the tourism industry could benefit from various multiplier effects, such as the implementation of clear and effective strategies in areas such as energy conservation and use, waste management and water quality. Harmonization of international rules With the advent of globalization and the World Trade Organization (WTO), changes in production and trade have become necessary in practically all countries, especially in developing countries. These have presented numerous challenges. Some solutions have emerged, such as the establishment of free trade areas and the implementation of international standards and quality management and environmental systems. Throughout this process, it has become evident that developing countries need to build their S&T capacity in several areas, simultaneously, if they are to continue to trade competitively in international markets. Relying on the common language of S&T, intellectual property rights, food safety and related issues can be addressed more effectively by ACP countries thereby advancing participation in the harmonization of international standards and procedures. Indicators for investors Increasingly, conditions are being attached to grants or loans and other official forms of development assistance (ODA) to ensure that the recipient countries make advances up the development ladder. It can no longer be assumed that donors would “sink hard cash” into seemingly good projects without having due diligence clauses attached which provide for adequate monitoring and accountability. Countries with S&T policies in place have an advantage, as such policies inevitably impact on a diverse range of social and economic activities and stimulate interest and provide a measure of confidence in the long-term stability of the recipient countries. Similarly, countries that create an environment that fosters development are more likely to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). S&T are the accepted tools for development and as such a culture of S&T evidenced through policies and strategies would be an indicator for attracting investors. Can ACP countries afford not to invest in S&T? Prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, representatives of ACP Countries attended a meeting on Research for Sustainable Development, where they discussed the role of research, science, technology and innovation. They noted common features in S&T policies and programmes of developed and developing nations that had improved their economic status. The ministers and technocrats unanimously agreed that science, technology and innovation are the most important tools for driving development and economic growth and improving the quality of life and should be given more emphasis in developing countries. Globalization, the demand for improvements in the basic social services such as health and education, as well as the need for a wholesome environment, are challenges that all countries face. Developed states have proven that S&T are the keys to success. Canada and Australia, for example, have demonstrated that with investments in S&T (as evidenced by the percentage of GNP spent on S&T, the increased use of ICTs, the number of patents and royalties) come prosperity. It has been argued that the poverty that characterizes most ACP states is not necessarily about limited human or material resources, but is primarily due to inadequate access to technical and socio-political knowledge and financing. If this is so, then one way to tackle this deficiency would be through the application of the relevant tools of S&T. National development plans which are based on S&T and into which S&T strategies are interwoven will facilitate the process of transforming ACP economies, thereby providing developing countries with a fighting chance for success in the future. Kingston, 15 November 2003