I’m in Washington DC, at a World Bank meeting on science and innovation for development. A new consensus appears to be emerging amongst African leaders about the importance of building up their science, technology and innovation capacity. Yesterday we heard a series of impressive presentations from the science ministers of Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and South Africa, all of whom are scaling up their levels of investment and ambition. Nigeria, for example, is using part of its recent windfall from high oil prices to create a 5 billion dollar endowment for science and technology.

The World Bank meeting follows hot on the heels of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa last month, which agreed on a series of steps to boost science and technology across the continent. For me, the most encouraging thing coming out of these discussions is the open and honest way in which African policymakers are pursuing distinctive approaches to science and innovation, which place poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability at the centre. The prospects for a distinctive model of ‘sub-saharan science’ is one of the themes we hope to explore in the next phase of our Atlas of Ideas project.


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