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WFEO Participates in the first Africa Day at the UN Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Forum

The first STI in Africa Day was held on 2nd May 2023 at the margins of the UN STI Forum in New York, with a focus on STI4SDGs: Priority Areas, Levers and Actionable Steps for Africa.

The STI in Africa Day had two main purposes:

  • To serve as a vehicle for connecting the global community to cooperate, network, showcase, share experiences, build strategic alliances, and, wherever possible, set in motion concrete actions that advance Africa’s STI4SDGs priorities;
  • To bring the outcomes of the African Regional Science, Technology and Innovation Forum to the global STI Forum and vice versa, with a view to guiding facilitative actions on both ends.


Dr Marlene Kanga AO chairs Session 2.
The theme of the STI in Africa Day was aligned with that of the fifth African Regional STI Forum 2023 which was Accelerating development and diffusion of emerging technologies for a green, inclusive and resilient Africa that took place last 26 and 27 February.

The co-organisers of STI in Africa Day at the STI Forum were United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), UNESCO and Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA)/IDTFAA.
WFEO, represented by the Chair of the WFEO UN Relations Committee (WURC), Dr K.N. Gunalan, was also a key organiser.

From left to right: Dr K.N. Gunalan, Chair, WFEO UN Relations Committee (WURC), H.E. Mothu Joyini, Ambassador for South Africa, Co-Chair UN STI Forum and Dr Marlene Kanga AO, WFEO President 2017-2019.
WFEO was invited to Chair a session due to its strong presence in Africa with 24 national members and the Federation of Africa Engineering Organisations (FAEO), representing the continent. As President-Elect Mustafa Shehu was unable to attend the event. WFEO was represented by Dr Marlene Kanga, former WFEO President (2017-2019), who chaired session 2: “STI for High Productivity and Economic diversification in Africa”.
This session asked the following key questions:

1. What means are needed for creating and amplifying human capital development?

2. What actors and mechanisms can foster agricultural food systems?

Key messages:

1. Frontier technologies like digitalization, geo-spatial technologies and AI are being used in the agricultural and food sector and can accelerate the SDGs in Africa.

2. Capacity building to develop human capital is important to enable the use of advanced technologies in the food and agricultural sector.

3. Digital infrastructure such as fast broadband is essential to enable the use of advanced technologies for the food and agricultural sector.

4. Advanced technologies can empower small-scale farmers and their communities with far-reaching economic and social impact.

Dr Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist FAO, speaking as a panelist at Session 2, Africa Day UN STI Forum, chaired by Dr Marlene Kanga AO.
Key initiatives:

1. Initiatives that use frontier technologies like digitalization, geospatial technologies and AI in the agricultural and food sector to accelerate the SDGs in Africa include:
   a. FAO Chief Scientist Dr Ismahane Elouafi – use of geospatial technologies in agriculture and use of Satellite data.
   b. Mr. Gouro Kamissko, representing small entrepreneur organizations, from Mali, had developed a mobile application that takes satellite imagery to forecast weather and other information to assist farmers in managing their crops.
   c. The Africa Risk Capacity Group, an important UN agency, is using geospatial information to map areas that are prone to drought and is expanding this technology to other types of natural disasters including floods and cyclones. This increases preparedness to respond to natural disasters and faster recovery, thereby enabling sustainable development.
   d. Google, representing industry, is using geospatial data to support the work of UN agencies like FAO and UNEP.

2. Capacity-building initiatives to develop human capital and digital infrastructure in the food and agricultural sector include:
   a. From FAO:
      1000 digital villages – aims to build capacity in digitalization, AI and other frontier technologies to leapfrog development
      Hand in Hand which has 37 nations in Africa as members
      Engaging with youth to support innovation in the food and agricultural sector.
   b. The Africa Risk Capacity group is developing strategies for planning for natural disasters, developing resilience and response strategies across 25 member states in Africa and has a $1 billion mutual fund for compensation to ensure capacity for recovery after a natural disaster.
   c. Google has invested $1 billion in various programs in Africa, is driving digital skills with programs like Grow with Google, and is supporting small and medium enterprises through the Africa Investment Fund and providing low-interest loans to start-ups.
   d. Google is also investing in digital infrastructure through the installation of sub-sea cables with five landing points in West Africa for fast broadband and is promoting Public-Private Partnerships to undertake digital projects.

3. An initiative that has empowered small-scale farmers and their communities with far-reaching economic and social impact was presented by the Juncao farmer from Rwanda who demonstrated the economic impact on his family and his community from the development of a mushroom farming enterprise from Juncao grass and how communities can be empowered by new technologies.

UK Chief Scientific Adviser Charlotte Watts asks a question at Session 2, Africa Day UN STI Forum, chaired by Dr Marlene Kanga AO, UN HQ, New York.
A report on the key messages and initiatives will be published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Africa Day was very successful and is likely to be an annual event, held as part of the UN STI Forum.

A recording of the event is available here:

(Part 1) Science Technology and Innovation in Africa Day (STI Forum 2023 Special Event) | UN Web TV

Session 2 starts at 2:13:40 and ends at 3:12:29 (end of video). (about 60 minutes)
Article Contributed by Dr Marlene Kanga, WFEO President 2017-2019.
For more information:

UN STI Forum in Africa Day concept note

UN STI Forum in Africa Day programme

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