The African Union (AU) High Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) held its 4th meeting in Cairo, Egypt from 23rd – 24th September, 2018 to deliberate on strategies aimed at promoting inter-country and inter-regional learning and knowledge exchange on science, innovation and emerging technologies across Africa. The Panel members had a comprehensive discussion on the modalities of establishing the Calestous Juma Executive Dialogue on Innovation and Emerging Technologies, which would consist of executive dialogues, short courses ranging from half day to three days, study tours, and other fora and portals.
The programme is a comprehensive package designed to recruit and engage a cadre of science, technology and innovation personnel, senior officials and policymakers and youth, and to arm them with information on benefits and potential risks of emerging technologies to enable them make informed decisions. The panel members endorsed the modalities and implementation strategy for the Calestous Juma executive dialogue on innovation and emerging technologies. The programme will be accredited by the AU as a leadership course on Innovation and emerging technologies and certification would be a joint activity between the NEPAD Agency and the African Union Leadership Academy (AULA).
APET Chair, Prof. Gassama Yaye Kene said that the executive dialogue was established to honour the memory of, and sustain the legacy of the late Prof. Calestous Juma who was the chair of APET until his untimely demise. Prof. Aggrey Ambali, Head of Industrialisation, Science, Technology and Innovation at NEPAD Agency and Head of the APET Secretariat mentioned that the executive dialogue would produce leaders who become experts in offering demand-driven advisory services on emerging technologies. Thus, the curricula would be designed towards harnessing emerging technologies essential to addressing challenges on the African continent.
The APET panel was established by the AU in recognition of the role of science, technology and innovation for the socio-economic development of African countries. The main purpose of the panel is to provide advice and recommendations on emerging technologies to AU Member States. One of the achievements of the APET so far has been the development of three reports on emerging technologies that have been recommended for adoption by AU Member States namely; (i) Gene Drive for Malaria Control and Elimination in Africa; (ii) Drones on the Horizon: Transforming Africa’s Agriculture; and (iii) Micro-grids: Empowering Communities and Enabling Transformation in Africa. These reports have since been published and are accessible to the general public.
In addition to the above three technologies, the APET members also resolved during the 4th meeting in Cairo, Egypt to analyse three additional technologies as follows: Artificial Intelligence; Block Chain Technology and Next Generation Batteries. Prof. Gassama Yaye Kene commended Panel members as well as the APET Secretariat which consists of NEPAD Agency and African Union Commission (AUC) on their commitment and hard work. The chair acknowledged the support and effort that the NEPAD Agency is making in implementing the APET recommendations on the first three technologies. She stated that this is positively impacting the knowledge base of Member States with regards to harnessing emerging technologies.
The meeting acknowledged and appreciated the proactiveness that the NEPAD Agency has demonstrated in mobilizing resources for the Calestous Juma Executive Dialogue on Innovation and Emerging Technologies. The chair of APET made a call for the AU to allocate financial resources to the executive dialogue in order to complement the current resource mobilization efforts. The Calestous Juma executive programme on innovation and emerging technologies will be launched at the Science Forum, which will be held at the CSIR Convention Centre in Pretoria, South Africa from the 12 – 14th of December, 2018. This programme will help to stimulate a vibrant debate on the role of emerging technologies in the development of Africa.