Choose your friends wisely
Two weeks ago at the India-Africa Science and Technology Ministers conference in New Delhi, Science ministers from India and Africa agreed to foster scientific collaboration as a means to wrestle our common challenges such as water security and affordable health care.
As elaborated by the press release of the meeting (see link below), the four key areas in question are capacity building; knowledge transfer and adoption; technology and innovation for development; and research opportunities for the future.
Given the rising status of India in the field of science and technology, this alliance is gold. One of the proposed strategies includes fellowships for African researchers to receive training in India, and joint workshops for scholars as a means to forge academic, and possibly industrial links. For Rwanda, this is priceless; the heavy investment in human capital especially at the undergraduate level of tertiary education needs to be complemented by post-graduate and research training. This is much needed at various levels of our ‘knowledge economy’.
In fact, the National Innovation Foundation of India is reportedly in talks with Rwanda on how to create a similar foundation on Rwandan soil that would provide the capacity to identify and nurture budding innovation. Coupling a workforce trained overseas with homegrown technologists might be the best approach to deploying innovative technology to address many issues. On one front, the exposure to state-of-the-art facilities and technology that are not available in Rwanda produces a breed of savvy technologists that think out of the box. At the other front, native tech solutions are designed to address local needs with the available resources; in my opinion coupling the two would accelerate development faster than either one on its own.
This is not all. Unlike well-established Western government, academic, and private institutions, India is a budding tech-economy and one that faces challenges similar to ours (in many, but not all, ways). There is a lot to learn about financing models for research funding and innovation as well as commercialisation strategies for scientific knowledge. I am of the conviction that one of the biggest take-aways for us would be how to nurture an innovation-friendly culture like we see in India today: once we have this, the prize is ours for the taking.
However, we know all that glitters isn’t gold! I, for one, couldn’t help wonder if India is not trying to be a China in Africa (incidentally a very hot topic for bars and cafes these days). Only time will tell but one thing is certain: we hold the responsibility to ensure that we are not flooded with Indian products, and never develop a local market for the goods our growing skill force is (or would be) producing with the very training and innovation gleaned from our partners. Catch my drift?
Enjoy your week ahead, folks…
To see the press release, visit http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=080683
Contact email: akintore[at]gmail.com