The World Economic Forum of 2017 and several other African Union fora have emphasized the important role of investment in science, research and development. The understanding is that it is through research and development that we can improve economic productivity, boost innovation, and create new start-ups, SMEs and jobs in our nations. Science is key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, reducing diseases and poverty, generating knowledge through research and translating it into product and services to the benefit of citizens.
It is worrisome that Nigeria and many African countries are yet to benefit immensely from the dividend of research and development, information technology globalization and resultant knowledge economy; the engine for knowledge society and sustainable development. Prof. Allan Christoffels, the DST/NRF Research Chair, University of Western Cape, in May 2018 edition of The Conversation and the Director of African Academy of Science, Prof. Thomas Kariuki, at the 2017 World Economic Forum emphasised the need to generate more home grown scientists for development of Africa.
It is notable that while Chile has 455 scientists per million people, and the UK and the US have more than 4,500 scientists per million people, Africa has 198 per million population. If Africa will match the world average number of researchers per million people (about 1500) and thus speed up development, it would require another million new PhDs. It is through this sort of capacity expansion that anation can have a strong research base and benefit from not only the progress spurred by cutting-edge research but a new generation of researchers to further strengthen its ability to drive innovation and economic development.
This is one of several reasons that FIRAT is established, addressing the gaps in Nigeria and other African countries of immediate need of research capacity while transforming lives through research, training and innovation.
The need for partnering with government, economic sectors and research institutions to ensure new knowledge become linked to development goals is a part of the deals FIRAT is signing for a private sectors participation in a private- public and private-private partnerships (PPPs).
Although the African Union long endorsed a target for each member nation to spend 1% of their Gross Domestic Product on research and development, but as at 2017, South Africa, Malawi and Uganda were the only nations able to reach this target; indicating more to be done by other nations. For how long shall the continent and its people wait without home grown initiative and support to complement government efforts? Therefore, in addition to international partnerships, private research Institutions like FIRAT need to spring up on the continent to cooperate with the government and deliver on development milestones across disciplines of life sciences, earths and environment changes, social and management sciences and technology related domains including engineering and mathematics to the benefit of the African people.
It is more important now than before to annex huge experience of effective policy trends, robust infrastructure, huge human capital and productive investment of many nations since the turn of the millennium to promote development in Africa. This era of increasing relevance of research in development has offered a great hope with ground breaking development to reorganize African’s capacities for accessing and benefitting from high level knowledge that shapes social changes and development.
FIRAT is prepared to lead research and translation capacities in different endeavours, and in collaboration with relevant bodies, for development of Nigeria and many African countries. We are delighted to work with you and you with us, to deliver on our mandate. You are invited to join us in the struggle today.
Prof. Ahmed A. Adedeji
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