PROMOTION OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY CORNERSTONE FOR AFRICAN ECONOMIC PROGRESS SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ADDRESS AT HEADQUARTERS

SG/SM/6891
9 February 1999

PROMOTION OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY CORNERSTONE FOR AFRICAN ECONOMIC PROGRESS SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ADDRESS AT HEADQUARTERS

9 February 1999


Press Release
SG/SM/6891
SAG/21


PROMOTION OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY CORNERSTONE FOR AFRICAN ECONOMIC PROGRESS SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ADDRESS AT HEADQUARTERS

19990209 Following is the address of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) meeting on the Development of Science and Technology in Africa, delivered on his behalf by the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, in New York on 9 February:

I am pleased to open this meeting on an issue of vital importance to Africa's development. The promotion of science and technology is a cornerstone of the kind of economic progress that Africa needs if it is to compete in the twenty-first century. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has already made a significant contribution to this effort, and I would like to pay tribute to them for leading the United Nations system in this endeavour.

As you know, I have made Africa's peace and prosperity a key priority of my work as Secretary-General, beginning with my report on Africa, and seeking to support the many United Nations projects designed to help Africa seize the opportunity for a brighter future. The report placed a central priority on ending Africa's conflicts so that African cooperation could finally flourish. Without peace and stability, no amount of aid or assistance can make the difference between poverty and prosperity.

But the report also emphasized the conditions for lasting development: good governance; respect for human rights and the rule of law; ensuring transparency and accountability in public administration. All these elements are required if we are to succeed in transforming Africa from a region that unsettles investors to one that inspires them. No one but Africans themselves can create the enabling environments for investment and economic growth. And no one -- not Africans themselves and not outside investors -- can be expected to invest in unstable or insecure neighborhoods.

As the world increasingly adapts to the information age, it is clear that science and technology will become ever more important to every country's growth and prosperity. From the communications industry to the biotechnology

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field, scientific innovation is the driving force of growth and development. And if Africa is to take part in this progress, nothing less than a transformation in priorities and policies is needed.

The evidence is clear: 80 per cent of scientific research is concentrated in a handful of industrialized countries; Africa's share in the world's scientific output fell from 0.5 per cent to 0.3 per cent between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s; Africa as a whole counts only 20,000 scientists, or 0.36 per cent of the world total; and there has been a steady decline in research and development in Africa from an already low level, while the brain drain of Africa's best and brightest to the industrialized world has increased. And, if Africa is to redress its shortfall in human resources and scientific progress, it must begin by affording the education of girls and women complete and comprehensive equality.

Our age -- the age of globalization -- offers a unique opportunity to reverse course. Globalization, as you all know, is a subject of much discussion and research today. But, there is a tendency still to view the matter largely in economic terms.

Globalization is affecting all aspects of our lives, from the political to the social to the cultural. Only knowledge, it would seem, is not being globalized. In an age where the acquisition and advancement of knowledge is a more powerful weapon in a nation's arsenal than any missile or mine, the knowledge gap between the North and South is widening. Alas, education often seems the last priority, leading too many third world students to leave for the West to acquire knowledge and education.

We are all consumers of the products of modern science and technology. However, a large part of the world has had no part in the process of their discovery, invention and production. Unless we embark urgently on a program of globalizing the generation of and access to knowledge, the unequal development of the world will only continue.

The continent of Africa is blessed with vast mineral wealth, great agricultural capacity and a rich diversity of animals and plants. Yet, as the market value of these commodities declines, the need to add value through scientific and technological refinements will only grow. By helping Africa develop the necessary knowledge and expertise, we can ensure that Africa itself will reap the benefits of its vast wealth.

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For information media. Not an official record.