WSF spotlight falls on science in Africa

World of science needs to respect indigenous knowledge systems:

The quest to support the development of scientific knowledge in Africa took centre stage at the World Science Forum (WSF), under the theme “Science for Social Justice”.

There was unanimous agreement that the world of science needed to acknowledge and incorporate scientific endeavours from Africa and respect indigenous knowledge systems.

On Thursday, outgoing University of Johannesburg’s Vice-chancellor and Principal, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala delivered a keynote lecture titled “Science for Africa and the World – How to unleash the Potential of African Science in Global Cooperation?” A panel discussion that followed explored a wide array of scientific issues, ranging from the continent’s investment in science, public participation, policymaking, inter-continental partnerships, science communication, mentorship for young people, etc.

At the heart of the discussion was the meaning of African science, with the leading question being, “Should there be science for Africa?”

Professor Michael Backes from the University of Namibia held that there was a disturbing tendency of dictating to African scientists what their inquiry must focus on – the socalled African problems. “Solely focusing on problems cripples science in Africa as it does not take into account any opportunities,” he said.

Prof Felix Dapare Dakora, president, African Academy of Sciences (AAS), praised South Africa’s commitment towards supporting the development of scientific knowledge and urged other African governments to follow suit. Another delegate asked why the forum was not expressing concern that research output was dominated by “non-scientific” publications based on qualitative research, which in her view “romanticises” the problem instead of offering empirical solutions.

The WSF also addressed the issue of science and diplomacy. Speaking at a plenary session titled “Science for Diplomacy – How Can Science Reboot Multilateralism and Global Solidarity”, the minister of international relations and cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, highlighted the fact that South African scientists identified two new Covid-19 variants, thereby proving that Africa is an equal player in global systems of science.

When the WSF closed, a declaration was adopted. “We acknowledge and celebrate the excellence and achievements of African science as a resource for humanity. We recognise that more could be done by African and other developing-world nations to support science, including by accelerating their efforts to achieve their own commitments to increase investment in science, technology and innovation.”


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