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Digital Address: GA-107-3073

‘Use part of Heritage fund to invest in STI’

Accra, June 24, GNA – Professor Francis K. Allotey, President of African Institute for Mathematics and Science, says Ghana should invest part of the heritage fund in developing science, technology and Innovation (STI) as a means of evolving the country’s science and technology.

He explained that since the heritage fund was set up for future investment and, to be used for future generations, and STI research was also to benefit future generations, it would not be out of place to use part of it to support research and STI.

“The Heritage Fund is a future fund and investing in science and technology is equivalent to investing in the future and so taking part of that money from the fund to invest in STI is a right thing” Prof Allotey argued.

“Funding of STI should be taken as a strategic investment that would yield results”, he added.

Speaking at a stakeholders’ consultative workshop held in Accra to discuss the national STI policy and framework of the STI Bill, Prof Allotey said the funding for STI needed to be intensified in all African countries, especially in Ghana.

He said in most of the Sub-Sahara African countries, scientific research funding was 90 per cent donor-driven and so researches were done to suit donors’ interest, saying “It is very important we take hold of our scientific research and drive it with our own development”.

He said it was also important that Africa developed its own research innovation solution to tackle its developmental challenges.

The stakeholders’ forum was also used to gather inputs from the participants that came from the academia, research institutions, scientists and officials of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, for onward submission to cabinet.

Prof Allotey explained that science, technology, innovation and economic entrepreneurship were essential pillars in developing a nation in this 21st century and so the government of Ghana needed to invest more in STI and take it more seriously.

He said the reason for the poor science technology environment in Africa and in Ghana was the unavailability of mechanism for the coordination of STI activities that would aid the avoidance of duplication of efforts and to promote synergy.

He said another reason was the absence of allowing for a central advocacy for STI at a high level of decision making, as well as inadequate funding for STI.

The renowned Professor recounted that in the 1970s, Ghana was quite ahead in scientific innovations than most Asian countries, saying, “Ghana started producing fridges, and electronic equipment before South Korea’s Samsung was established.

“Now I don’t think Ghana produces any of these and South Korea, which we started before are now the world’s leading producer of electronics and refrigerator and consumer goods. The reason is simply that South Korea invested a lot in STI and I believe that if we want to be the developing country we have to invest well in these areas”, he said.

Prof Allotey indicated that India was another country that had put much investment in STI making that country to benefit about $50 billion dollars annually on the investment in computers alone.

He said Rwanda was the only African country that was spending much in STI and developing mathematical infrastructure, implementing STI programmes widely in the country and had computerised its airports and most of the country.

Prof Allotey said for most African countries, there were no proper policies on STI and that the lack of such government policies on STI in Africa had been a bane to STI development in most of the countries.

He said despite the numerous initiatives and interventions taken by successive government, Ghana unlike countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, had been unable to develop fully the scientific technological innovation base to address the nation’s basic human needs of food, health care, shelter, energy, transportation and communication.

He said there was also a low science culture among the populace coupled with a weak linkage between policy formulation and national development planning and ineffective coordination.

He was however happy that Ghana was reviewing the Draft STI Policy and the framework of the STI Bill which would hopefully be taken to cabinet for its implementation.

He said since the era of former President John Jerry Rawlings through to ex-President John Mahama’s period the draft national STI policy had gone back and forth, but now there seemed to be lots of commitment by the current government, especially on the part of Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the Environment, and STI Minister to ensure that the policy got to Cabinet.

He said the Minister had assured that one per cent research fund was implemented and also to establish an Apex system made up of renowned scientists and researchers to help strengthen STI in the country.

Prof Frimpong-Boateng, on his part, said the process of developing an STI policy and setting up an Apex body for STI, and also establishing an STI fund, had gotten the strong backing of the government which had promised to commit an initial amount of one per cent of GDP to the fund.

He said the process was important because Cabinet had expressly instructed the sector Ministry to start the process that would ensure the establishment of an STI Fund, and also solidify the STI policy, adding that, “by this we are embarking on a journey that I said before, would change this nation because we all know that the poverty gap is a technology gap, the hunger gap is a technology gap”.

“If we have 65 per cent of our population engaging in agriculture and we are still not able to feed ourselves then there is a problem. “We have a lot of work to do, we have to be running and not walking, running faster than those who are ahead of us, otherwise we can’t catch up with them but luckily, with modern technology, it will be easy to catch up”, Prof Frimpong-Boateng noted.