Experts urge investment in science and tech to drive AfCFTA

Africa has been urged to close the gap in science and technology in order to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, former president of Mauritius made the call at the African Export-Import Bank’s (Afreximbank) fifth Annual Babacar Ndiaye hybrid lecture on the theme: ‘the importance of science, technology, and innovation in the transformation of African economies.

According to her, Africa is falling behind the rest of the World in science, technology, and innovation (STI).

“Only 0.1 percent of all patent applications are registered in Africa, compared to 65 percent in Asia and 25 percent in North America. Africa is also responsible for only 2 percent of the world’s research output and 1 percent of research spending.” She said

“Furthermore, the laggards in Africa have 11 researchers per million people whilst the best-performing countries in the world, such as South Korea and Denmark had between 7,000-8,000 scientists and researchers per million people.”

She asked how can a continent with the largest share of arable land, a continent with the youngest population, a continent that has fuelled all of the world’s industrial revolution, a continent that has helped drive the mobile phone industry, a continent that is at the cusp of supporting the world’s energy transition to greener technology with a large store of rare earth deposits accept such dismal statistics?”

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Gurib-Fakim, remarked that Africa’s failure to advance in science and technology has been compounded by the fragmentation of its markets. She praised the establishment of AfCFTA for overcoming this hurdle and creating the largest single market in the world by membership. However, the economic transformation anticipated by the free-trade market hinges on Africa “closing its scientific and technological gap with the rest of the world” and “sustainably producing the right set of skills to expand both extra and Intra-African trade.”

One of the major challenges is the continued brain drain of Africa’s brightest and best scientific minds. The former President encouraged the private and public sectors to invest much more in education and research and development. “Every young African has the potential to be a great scientist, to innovate and become globally competitive,” Gurib –Fakim said.

Benedict Oramah, chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, who also spoke at the event talked about the need for Africans to start rising in technological goods. “The failure of Africa to secure Covid-19-related equipment such as face masks and ventilators shows that the continent must start manufacturing its own technological goods.” Oramah Said.

African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) is a Pan-African multilateral financial institution mandated to finance and promote intra-and extra-African trade.

The bank deploys innovative structures to deliver financing solutions that support the transformation of the structure of Africa’s trade, accelerating industrialization and intra-regional trade, thereby boosting economic expansion in Africa

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