The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is set to officially launch the African Research and Innovation Forum (FARI) to promote the development of science, technology and innovation (STI) among member states.
Speaking at the pre-launch press conference today (September 6, 2022) in Abuja, the president of ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Touray explained that the first edition of FARI themed “Science, Technology and Innovation for a more competitive ECOWAS” is scheduled to hold from October 17 to 21, 2022 in Abuja, Nigeria and will provide a platform for stakeholders across West Africa to brainstorm on the role of STI in regional development.
Represented by ECOWAS commissioner, human development and social affairs, Prof. Fatou Sarr, he posited that the scientific and technological development of a nation depends on its scientific and technological development which requires political and financial commitment for the development of research and innovation.
“The development of science and technology in Africa requires significant resources. However, far from being exclusively a question of resources, this development depends, to a large extent, on a strong political will which defines an effective strategy enabling the pooling of skills and federating all energies around a common vision and making science, technology and innovation the engine of development. The examples of the ‘Asian dragons’ like Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are sufficiently eloquent to prove that socio-economic development is not the result of chance, but of a bold policy of developing science, technology and innovation.”
Touray pointed out that the convening of the FARI marks an important turning point in the promotion of science and technology at the regional level.
He further said that it would be a framework for strengthening regional cooperation in the science and technology sector.
“FARI will contribute to bringing together researchers from the region on the one hand and their counterparts from the rest of the world on the other. Moreover, our teams are working hard to involve a Nobel Prize winner in the opening of the forum and the best African organisations and institutions. The relevance of the central theme and sub-themes of FARI-2022 requires that the forum be given importance. This is the reason for this ceremony. My department and the ECOWAS Commission have high expectations of the outcome of the forum,” he said.
Touray added that the ECOWAS scientific community has high expectations of the forum. It is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the resolutions that will emerge from this regional framework of reflection with concrete proposals to achieve a qualitative leap towards the realisation of the ECOWAS STI vision 2050.
Earlier, the Ambassador of Guinea Bissau, H.E. Dr. João Butiam Có underscored the importance of a forum to promote STI for regional integration and development.
“Guinea Bissau, my country, is pleased with this initiative which will enable all the countries of the region to exchange best practices in the field of science and technology. Moreover, the current Head of Authority of ECOWAS, His Excellency, Umaro Sissoko Embalo, has always attached importance to science and technology in his mandate, as factors that should favour the acceleration of the industrialisation of our region. This forum is of the uttermost importance because we all know that science, technology and innovation are the tripartite that must lift our continent out of poverty.
“He places hope in this forum as a framework for strengthening the integration of both political and scientific decision makers. He intends to express his determination to accompany the holding of the forum by his presence at the high-level panel on 21 October 2022,” he said.
The envoy urged scientists, policymakers, journalists and all actors in the region to unite in the quest of developing West Africa using science, technology and innovation.
In his goodwill message, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Sen. Adeleke Mamora said FARI would also be an avenue for the exchange of ideas and discussions among scientists, innovators, policymakers, the private sector, as well as technical and financial partners, to showcase inventions and innovations for the growth and development of the region.
Mamora expressed optimism that the forum would be an avenue for scientists to network among themselves to move research and development forward, adding that it would equally provide an opportunity for international STI cooperation and networking within the ECOWAS member states.
In his opening remarks, the head, scientific research and innovation division, ECOWAS, Dr. Roland Kouakou, said the objective of FARI is to provide a regional platform for exchange and discussion between scientists, technologists, innovators, policymakers, the private sector, technical and financial partners, students and the general public to improve public understanding of the role of science, technology and innovation in socio-economic development.
According to him, the first edition of the forum scheduled for October is expected to have over 200,000 visitors, over 20 startups, over 40 countries, over 50 business-to-business exchanges and over 3 award-winning startups.
He highlighted the expected results to include the improved visibility of regional scientific research and technology; creation of a regular framework for dialogue between all scientific and innovation actors in the region, Africa and the world; creation of new conditions for motivating researchers in the region to increase the quality of their research work, the provision of conditions for emulation between research institutions of ECOWAS member states amongst others.