President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and major stakeholders have called for more investment in science technology and innovation (STI) to drive the industrialisation process for a competitive Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region.
President Buhari made this call in his address while declaring open the first edition of the African Forum for Research and Innovation (FARI) themed “Science, Technology and Innovation for a more competitive ECOWAS,” organised by ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the Nigerian government, through the Federal Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation (FMSTI) today (October 17, 2022) in Abuja.
The president, represented by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, stated: “We all can conveniently agree that this event was long overdue, as we lacked the forum to showcase the available research and development (R&B) efforts in the region, particularly in the area of STI, as a way of finding solutions to the myriad of challenges affecting our region and for researchers to network among themselves for a better future, noting that the application of STI in all facets of life equally brings to the fore the prospects of the much needed solutions to our challenges.
“As for capacity-building and multi-tasking skills, it is a known fact that a new generation of active and productive talents are being discovered to proffer solutions to the numerous challenges confronting the region; hence, the need to come up with innovative ideas for the wellbeing of the people of our region.
“The time to move forward and act accordingly is now. This can only be achieved through the pooling together of human capacity, infrastructure and technical skills, among others that should be available to our youth, thereby curbing unemployment.
“Speaking of the youth, more than half of our population in West Africa are 15 years old and younger. It will be an existential threat if we are unable to channel their energies and their creativity into acquiring skills that will be deployed into solving the challenges that confront us. Not just in the present but also in the future.
The West African region stands to gain a lot through the utilisation of STI to address the various diseases and catastrophes ravaging our people.
“In line with the mandate of scheduled plan of action of the STI for the ECOWAS region, there is need to researchers to acquire modern and state-of-the-art equipment and materials, thereby strengthening the capacity of the region to serve as a catalyst for regional cooperation and regional integration through policy harmonisation, advocacy, trade liberalisation and trade facilitation in all sectors of the STI ecosystem.
“Nigeria has taken steps to ensure that its youthful population is given the appropriate environment to achieve their dreams in innovation by passing legislation that governs and provides [a] level-playing field via the Nigerian Start-up bill, which has been passed by our National Assembly and I look forward to assenting to the landmark piece of legislation as a critical building block for energising our innovation landscape,” the president said.
The minister of the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Sen. Adeleke Mamora in his address disclosed that the idea of having the forum was initiated in 2016.
“The aim of the forum towards the economic transformation of the West African region competitiveness in research and innovation is to act and [we] will assist in the process for the industrialisation of the member states.
“Scientific and technological advancement continues to change the base of human race as new discoveries and innovation give out evolution in new phase.
“The member states of the economy were key into the vision 2050 that focuses on the community of people, peace and prosperous region and work for inclusive and sustainable development for STI.
He assured that the forum will go a long way in providing the necessary information for Africa.
In his remark, the president of ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Touray said, for centuries science has contributed greatly to health, education, communication, transport, agriculture, environment, finance, energy, military, defence and international security.
“Science, technology and innovation is a driving force for structural transformation of the economics and the factors of integration of the economy.”
The director, Dakar regional office and OIC Abuja regional office of the United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Dr. Dimitri Sanga said: “[According to the] Science report (2021), the clock is ticking for all countries, including those in Africa, to reach their Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. On the other hand, countries are convinced that their future economic competitiveness will depend upon how quickly they transition to digital and green societies driven by science technology and innovation (STI).
“I, therefore, congratulate the organisers for carefully selecting the theme of FARI, ‘Science Technology and Innovation for a competitive ECOWAS’ which will produce the needed actions for ECOWAS to have a vibrant STI to drive development and competitiveness.
“Science technology and innovation (STI) are universally recognised as key drivers for poverty eradication and essential components for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, to make STI work for the society, appropriate STI policy frameworks and collaborative approaches need to be developed and reinforced.
“UNESCO and ECOWAS commission adopted a collaborative approach in tackling the COVID 19 pandemic and were able to produce data and information for science advice and advocacy in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in West Africa.”