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COVID-19: Science, Technology, Innovation key to Africa’s recovery — ECA boss



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Science, technology, innovation as well as ability to create sustainable jobs will be at the heart of Africa’s recovery from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, says Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Songwe said in a statement by ECA Spokesperson, Mercy Wambui, that Africa needed innovations to drive homegrown solutions out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession it triggered the world over.

The ECA boss spoke during a five-day virtual COVID-19 Africa Innovation and Investment Forum 2020.

“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 (IP) 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.”

She said COVID-19 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.

Songwe added that 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”.

According to her, 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.

She added that 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 per cent of Africa’s population had access to quality, affordable and reliable broadband.

“We surely can do more to improve internet penetration on the continent, especially as a lot of jobs and wealth are going to come out of innovation,” she said.

The Forum is being convened by the ECA, UNESCO and South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation in partnership with the African Union Commission and Engineering for Change. NAN

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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