Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the Minister of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation, has applauded the great contributions made by the African scientific community, particularly in the area of agriculture expansion.
He said it is important for Africans to recognise Africa’s own contribution to modern science and technology, and most importantly for each country to reflect on their own unique situation and access to both subject areas in the context of sustainable national development.
The Minister made the commendations in his keynote address at a durbar of scientists, researchers and students in Accra on Friday, to climax the 2019 Africa Scientific Renaissance Day and the 30th Anniversary celebrations of the Africa Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA).
The three-day celebration, which had been on the theme: Transforming Agriculture Towards the “Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda”: The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation, was organised by the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI).
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said the Day, which was instituted by the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union in 1987, was to remind all African governments and people about the critical role that science and technology played in national development, and to showcase the achievements of its scientists towards this cause.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said the theme for the celebrations brings to the fore the important role of agriculture in national development, saying it accounted for about 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the development of African countries.
The focus on agriculture, he said, was key because it was crucial for the survival and wellbeing of humanity and called for improved efforts, using modern science, technology and engineering, to address emerging socio-economic challenges to meet the needs of the rising population of the continent.
He said “the sad truth is that many African countries are not doing well in agriculture” quoting the remark made by the late Mr Kofi Annan that “Africa is the only continent where the Green Revolution has not yet taken place”.
He said this state of affairs has everything to do with the deficit that Africa exhibited in engineering, technology and innovation, saying all human activities were driven by technology which, had an enviable track record of providing solutions to humanity’s challenges, whether in transportation, health, sanitation, water resources, security and defence, energy or any other area of socio-economic activity.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda, was underpinned by government’s desire and commitment to prudently manage the country’s natural resources in a manner that allowed financing of its development agenda without recourse to external assistance.
This, he said, found its agriculture component in “Planting for Food and Jobs, Rearing for food and export, a government initiative which was aimed at increasing food sufficiency, reducing exports and creating jobs for people, especially the youth.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said the expansion, improvement, sustainability and reliability of the programme would largely depend on the extent of deploying science and technology, adding that MESTI and its agencies, especially the CSIR and GAEC, were well positioned to make a difference.
He urged scientists to work at finding solutions to peculiar problems in the agriculture sector and to partner with the private sector in order to stimulate the demand for science and technology.
The Minister, then highlighted on the importance of laying emphasis on renaissance, saying it was “a period of revival, re-discovery and bringing back what you have”, and the importance of recognising that Africa has, and continues to place science into focus.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng also cited some problems being faced globally as climate change, and the fact that the dry season was becoming longer than it was intended, causing erratic rainfall patterns and drying of water bodies, as well as rising sea levels, causing erosion of farms and pasture lands.
He said challenges such as the degradation of forests and farmlands, water and soil pollution from illegal mining activities, as well as population growth with pressure on arable farmlands for human dwellings, were all threats that required the use of science and technology for redress.
“We also need the right planting materials,” and commended the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute of GAEC, as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for their cutting edge research outcomes in developing new crop species, as well as pest and disease controls for crops.
Professor Benjamin J. B Nyarko, the Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, later conducted the Minister around exhibition stand mounted by the various research institutions including GAEC and the CSIR.