Science, technology and innovation will be at the heart of Africa’s recovery from the devastating coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the continent’s ability to create sustainable jobs, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, said Monday.In remarks at the beginning of a five-day virtual COVID-19 Africa Innovation and Investment Forum 2020, Songwe said Africa needs innovations and homegrown solutions to drive out the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate economic recession.
“We need investments in innovation, science and technology to understand how we can protect our citizens and also as a way of growing out of this crisis. STI will be at the heart of Africa’s recovery and its ability to create sustainable jobs that is why for a very long time ECA has been talking of the importance also of intellectual property rights to protect the innovations of Africa’s youth,” she said.
Songwe said the current costs of IP registrations on the continent were prohibitive and not rewarding innovation.
“This is not a strategy for growth,” said the ECA Executive Secretary, adding; “As we talk of science, technology and innovation, we also need to make sure that our policymakers ensure that our technological platforms are robust.”
“This virus has highlighted the importance of science, technology and innovation and the need for Africa to build a much stronger, much more collaborative scientific technology industrial base,” said Songwe, adding partnerships were needed across the continent to “ensure that as we build on the African Continental Free Trade Area, we develop, discover and innovate collaboratively”.
Songwe said Africa also needs to come together to see how it can be part of the big drive to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and other diseases affecting the continent.
“If Africa is to succeed in getting out of this crisis in a sustainable way, technology is going to have to be the cornerstone of that success,” she said, adding the continent needs to innovate collectively and support its youth to innovate by creating the necessary infrastructure to create quality jobs, spur economic growth and promote health.
Songwe said it was unacceptable that only 25 percent of Africa’s population has access to quality, affordable and reliable broadband.