Knowledge for Development

Enhancing policy dialogue on S&T for development in ACP countries

Author: Carl B. Greenidge, CTA, Wageningen

Date: 14/12/2004


The widely publicized revolution in technology, particularly in the areas of information communications and bio-technology, has rekindled interest in the potential of Science and Technology (S&T) to raise the rate of economic and social development and transformation of low income states. So far, the most dramatic evidence of this revolution is to be found primarily in the developed states and the most visible consequences for the low income states has been their accentuated marginalization.


Not only are low income states performing poorly in terms of indicators of human wellbeing but they perform equally abysmally in terms of indicators of technology.

Table 1: The technological divide between high- and low-income countries.
Selected indicators Year Unit/measure HICs LICs LIC/HIC
Human capital indicators
Human Dev. Index 1999 - 0.926 0.549 59
GDP per capita 1999 PPP (a) in US$ 25,860 1,910 7
Population under age 15 1999 % 18.6 37.2 200
Ann. pop. growth '99-'15 1999 % 0.4 1.7 425
Infant mortality rate 1999 per 1,000 births 6 120 2,000
Life expectancy at birth 1999 Years 78 59 76
1st/2nd/3rd enrolment 1999 % 93 51 55
Adult literacy rate 1999 % age 15+ (99) 61.7 62
Adult literacy rate (female) 1999 % age 15+ (99) 52.2 53
Resources indicators
Total GNP (b) 1997 US$ billion 23,802 722 3
R&D expend. '87-97(c) - % of GNP 2.4 0.9 38
Total R&D expenditures 1997 US$ billion 571 6 1
R&D scientists '87-'97c - p. 100,000 inhab. 3,127 47 (d) 2
Patent applications filed 1997 *1,000 2,137 16 (e) 1
High-technology exports 1998 % goods exported 21 4 19
Computing power and networking indicators
Telephone main lines 1999 per 1,000 inhab. 591 27 5
Mobile subscribers 1999 per 1,000 inhab. 373 3 1
Personal computers 1999 per 1,000 inhab. 311 3 1
Internet hosts 1999 per 1,000 inhab. 95.2 0.1 0
Electricity consumption 1998 Kilowatt-hours 8,406 362 4
(a) PPP = purchasing power parity, in US$ / (b) GNP 1997, Atlas method ( / (c) Data refer to the most recent year available / (d) Based on data available from 11 countries / (e) Applications filed by residents only. Source: UNDP (2001) Human Development Report 2001

Table I demonstrates just how much technological indicators mirror the poor performance and endorsement at the human resource level. In most instances the final column on the right of the table demonstrates that indicators for developing states are a fraction, often a tiny fraction, of those for developed states. Whilst the importance of specific indicators may be disputed as may the absolute gaps, the general message is indisputable - resources, infrastructure and support in developing states are inadequate (and frequently inappropriate) for fostering innovative systems. The enormous technological divide between high and low-income countries is also reflected in a marked discrepancy between the research agendas and the research needs of the developing world.

Over the years, efforts to harness the potential of S&T for the transformation of low income states have been hampered by the usual suspects identified in the development literature, namely lack of an enabling environment and inadequate priority research and development.

The latter allocation problem is evident from a cursory scan of the data. Recent work points to the low priority accorded to S&T as a major source of the problem. A CTA commissioned review by University of Maastricht, for example, suggests that S&T plans in ACP states little, if any, mention of S&T let alone cite it as a priority. This omission is also a reflection of shifting priorities which is evident among the donor group. Additionally, there has been a steady decline in both agricultural research and ACP technology development through the 1980s and 1990s. This is the case although agriculture has been recognized as worthy of being crucial in any of attempt to come to grips with food security and endemic famine in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

This lack of interest in S&T has been partly the result of disillusionment with returns on previous investments in S&T as well as ideological shifts which have redefined the role of the state in favour of sponsoring free market and private sector primacy. In the case of the low income states, however, the expected benefits of the market liberalisation and international trade in particular, have failed to materialize either in terms of improved levels of income and welfare or in terms of spawning innovation systems. The universal agreement on the redefined role of the state in low income states remains elusive and this is reflected in a need to establish consistent development priorities and to provide for both state and private sector development by establishing an appropriate enabling environment.

Latterly for most regional and international organisations, 'knowledge as the key to socio-economic development' is now firmly ensconced in their policy agendas and work programmes. For example, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) recently created the African Forum on Science and Technology for Development (AFSTD) to provide African leaders with advice on science and technology issues. This Forum is intended to be a platform for facilitating multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and for identifying strategies for harnessing science and technology to alleviate poverty and achieve economic growth.

Moving from such grand visions to operational projects is not an easy task.

In so far as information policy is concerned some of the main causes of failed S&T policy implementation have been insufficient ownership of plans/programmes as well as with inadequate networking and dialogue. Another consequence of inadequate consultation in policy preparation is the fashioning of incomplete/inappropriate policies. In recognition of this, CTA has been directing its energies to encouraging and facilitating demand-driven (participatory) approaches to S&T and especially efforts to make the process of S&T plan-formulation inclusive. In this context, it means involving farmers/representatives and other agri-food actors and stakeholders, scientists/researchers and policy makers in the process.

For ACP countries, developing national S&T policy agendas in collaboration with all stakeholders is a challenge. National S&T policies and plans will undoubtedly enhance the ability of ACP countries to pay greater attention to S&T in their agricultural sector policies and programmes. Cotonou requires multi-stakeholder participation and dialogue in the process of preparing Country Strategy Papers. Without properly enunciated and inclusive country strategy plans, support for S&T capacity building programmes under the Cotonou Agreement would be elusive.

With the aid of its platforms for dialogue, the Centre can facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences as an important part of the process of defining priorities. It can help to identify the stakeholders in the agricultural sector who may be in a position to contribute and participate in the dialogue. Two useful assets of the CTA in this context are its extensive contacts data base and its established role as an honest broker between agriculture professionals and between the ACP and the EU.

The ACP includes numerous small states in terms of both physical and population size as well as GNP. For such states it is very difficult to exploit the economies of scale associated with most research and technology activities. ACP states have long recognised the value of regional integration in such circumstances. An additional consideration emerging from research on enterprise clusters is the finding that the grouping of enterprises into sectoral and geographic clusters gives rise to synergies, enhances efficiency and competitiveness and fosters industrialisation. In the light of this, contiguous states would be well advised to spare no effort to ensure complementarity in their research programmes since there could be invaluable spill-over benefits and externalities from such complementarity.

On this front, CTA's efforts can facilitate the sharing of national experiences and enhance the extent and depth of intra-ACP, ACP-EU and ACP 3rd party dialogue and exchange of experience.

The CTA's mission as set out in Cotonou requires the Centre to lend its support to national efforts to improve policy-making capacity in Information Communications Management (ICM) and in tackling poverty. For all of these reasons the CTA has been following with keen interest, efforts at national and supra-national levels to redress the neglect of S&T in agriculture. The Centre's programme on S&T is intended to provide support to ACP states and actors by raising awareness of the importance of S&T to enhancing productivity in agriculture, in particular. As a complement to such efforts, the Centre has also been supporting an initiative to diagnose the experience of previous national efforts and to highlight and apply the lessons where appropriate.

Against this backdrop, CTA has launched its S&T programme. That programme will provide policy assistance to ACP countries in developing their national agricultural S&T policies, programmes and strategies. CTA aims to provide information services on, S&T issues; raise the awareness of S&T and its potential, facilitate dialogue and foster closer collaboration among the ACP scientific community and between the ACP and European Research areas.