Executive Director's Statement
Welcome to the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS)!
Bien Venue ATPS!
ATPS is a multi-disciplinary network of researchers, private sector actors, policy makers and civil society actors promoting the generation, dissemination, use and mastery of science, technology and innovation (STI) for African development, environmental sustainability and global inclusion. Our mission is to improve the quality of STI research, policy and practice for sustainable development in Africa, by Africans and for Africa.
All ATPS programs aim to build Africa’s Science, Technology and Innovation Capacity Today for Sustainable Development Tomorrow.
The goal is built on our firm believe that all development effort without a sound science, technology and innovation capacity is bound to yield unsustainable results. Building institutional and individual STI capacities in Africa is therefore the key to poverty alleviation, sustainable development and global inclusion of the African continent.
ATPS has therefore evolved from primarily two technology policy studies networks for Eastern and Southern Africa (EATPS) and Western Africa (WATPS) in the 1980s to an independent international organisation working on trans-disciplinary Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy research, policy formulation and policy practice for African development, since the year 2000. While retaining a science and technology policy focus, it has graduated to the STI centre of excellence and Knowledge for Development network in Africa. As it has evolved, so has its approach to capacity building, research, training, communication and outreach, and partnerships.
Science, Technology and Innovation Capacity building is the core of all ATPS activities: the capacity of researchers to conduct innovative STI policy relevant research; the capacity of policymakers, private sector actors and the civil society to understand, articulate, formulate and implement relevant STI policies; the capacity of our national chapters to sustain national policy dialogue and monitor implementation; and the capacity to communicate and share science, technology and innovation more broadly within the African continent and beyond.
The year 2008 saw the launch of the ATPS Phase VI Strategic Plan, 2008 – 2012. The five year Strategic Plan which commenced on January 2008, has adopted a forward looking and ambitious agenda. During the implementation of the ATPS Phase VI Plan, ATPS will continue to close the loop through four interrelated functions:
- Knowledge Generation (Research & Research Capacity Building/Training);
- Knowledge Brokerage (Stakeholder Dialogue, Knowledge Circulation and Networking);
- Knowledge Dissemination & Outreach – (Publications, STI Journalism, Policy Advocacy);
- Knowledge Valorization – (Innovation Incubation and Challenge Programs, etc).
Our research process, either thematic/regional or small grants, does not allow research for research sake. It is also not an avenue to increase our stock of publications in international journals as important as this may be. All our thematic research and facilitative program activities aim at providing practical solutions to practical problems through science, technology and innovation. All ATPS research and research related activities must demonstrate social relevance both in its conception and execution. Emphasis must be placed on social innovation, indicating how the project is likely to improve the material conditions of the people who are affected by the problem under investigation, and how they are likely to be better equipped to deal with these problems after the current effort proposed. Two critical elements of this are: dialogue with the intended users throughout the process (through knowledge exchange exercises, practical demonstrations etc) and an actionable implementation plan using the results of the activity. Summarised in a sentence, ATPS research and research related activities all aim at improving the innovative capacity of Africans to solve their own problems, and on the other hand, improve their capacity to use and master scientific knowledge, indigenous and emerging technologies and innovations for sustainable development in Africa. Knowledge brokerage, STI communication and outreach and knowledge valorisation therefore remain core activities of all ATPS research activities. By technology we mean, the application of knowledge, including the skills necessary to deploy principles, procedures, and processes that can be used to modify, manipulate and otherwise produce changes in the specific features of the physical world to serve human or social purpose. This is in other words, “knowledge used to solve problems”. By innovative capacity here, we mean the capacity to introduce new products, processes and services and to organizational and societal renewal, for development, and by STI valorization we mean, utilization and mastery of STI to add value to human livelihoods. By valorization of innovation, we mean actual translation of scientific outputs into tangible social designs, institutional designs, technologies and products to aid poverty alleviation and sustainable development, i.e. "putting knowledge into use".
Our training programs and policy seminars are increasingly serving as avenues for utilizing results of ATPS supported research as well as the results of research and experiences from other institutions and countries. ATPS is serving as a broker of knowledge, evaluating, synthesizing and passing on policy relevant knowledge to all its key stakeholders including policymakers, farmers' associations, other NGOs, international organizations and the private sector within the context of Africa's aspirations and values. One new feature of our training program is the training of journalists in science and technology writing and reporting. In order to increase the appreciation for science and technology led development, Africa needs a cadre of journalists that will devote their energy to understanding and communicating science and technology to a wider audience. This platform will provide veritable outlets for putting STI into use in Africa through media outreach. ATPS promotes the African perspectives in all its activities, seeking solutions within the African intellectual community at home and in the Diaspora and complementing it with relevant knowledge from anywhere else through global and multi-lateral dialogues and partnerships.
Our national partnership strategy is also evolving. ATPS national chapters are forging links with national institutions whose contributions materially and in-kind are important is subsidizing ATPS national activities. Under the new governance framework of the chapters, emphasis is placed on the participation of the quadruple helix: the Policymakers/state institutions; the academia, the private sector and the civil society at all levels of the ATPS governance structure. We are devising new strategies for increasing Africa's support to STI capacity building and ATPS in particular.
Our publication strategy is selective and targeted, addressing varied audience. New emphasis is on publications of titles with broad based/regional appeal. Our Technopolicy Briefs, targeted at the busy policymakers, are the most popular. It downloads complex science, technology and innovation issues into a language that is at the same time accessible and robust.
ATPS is a unique institution in many ways: its network of chapters; its trans-disciplinary approach and focus on demand led activities; its growing membership and partners in Africa and globally, all add to give it a distinct voice in Africa's science, technology and innovation policy arena. Its message that science, technology and innovation are the bedrocks for African development seems obvious. But this is a message that is requiring persistence, hard work and a lot of efforts to deliver and internalize. But ATPS understands the challenges and is gradually mastering the tools.
We hold a firm belief that the missing link in Africa’s development struggle is the lack of focus on building science, technology and innovation capacity at both individual and institutional levels. We do not however believe in recounting Africa’s chequered development history and/or finding excuses why we cannot achieve sustainable development, as important and true as these may be. We are determined not to dwell on our failures and the many development challenges we face but to “learn from our mistakes yesterday”, “act differently our today” and “secure our tomorrow”. We see the unlimited development solution and the unlamented opportunities that building science, technology and innovation capacities presents for the new African renaissance. We dream of the new Africa where science, technology and innovation is the norm, and poverty is history.
We also know that together we can build Africa’s science, technology and innovation capacity to make these dreams come true. We ask you the reader, and all our other stakeholders to join us in this collective endeavor for the betterment of human kind. We believe that with your support, we can together alleviate poverty in Africa and build a more sustainable world. Yes We Can.
Please do join us to build Africa’s science, technology and innovation capacity today for sustainable development tomorrow.
Kevin Chika Urama, PhD. (Cantab)