For the past few years, an increasing number of international scientific organizations have been establishing and strengthening their positions in Africa, resulting in a growth of engagement both with and from Africa. This rising interest in the continent is a positive step towards enhancing the presence of African science in global science systems. To further support this aim, the International Science Council has already been actively consulting its Members on the continent to collect insights on scientific priorities of the region and held the first event of the Global Knowledge Dialogue with its African Members on 5 December 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Global Knowledge Dialogue Africa revealed a need for regional networks to be better connected, and for potential synergies to be better exploited in order to bring to light mutually beneficial development opportunities. Ineffective or inadequate cooperation between scientific organizations on the continent has led to a fragmentation in the scientific landscape and to missed opportunities to consolidate the position of African science in the global arena.
“The diversity of the science landscape in Africa calls for an inclusive consultation involving not only the active scientific community but also all relevant stakeholders – educators, industry and citizens as well as decision-makers – that will co-design the science agenda for Africa in the years to come.”Salvatore Aricò, incoming ISC CEO
Future Africa, a pan-African collaborative research platform at the University of Pretoria will, on behalf of the Council, lead the work on convening African partners in an inclusive scoping and development process. This process will aim to articulate the needs of African scientists and science systems, to make recommendations about the ISC’s future role and institutional presence in Africa, and to identify pathways to implementation of those recommendations.
To achieve its ambitious goals and in the spirit of a widely consultative process with African stakeholders, the agreement heavily relies on the ISC’s African Members and their representatives, ISC Fellows from the continent, representatives of ISC partner organizations, regional chapters of international programmes and networks that are co-sponsored or work under the auspices of the ISC.
“Future Africa looks forward to working closely with all African ISC Members and Fellows to understand the needs of scientists and scientific institutions on the African continent. We plan to advance a robust consultative process that will inform how the ISC supports and engages with African science.”Heide Hackmann, Director of Future Africa and Strategic Advisor on Transdisciplinarity and Global Knowledge Networks at the University of Pretoria in South Africa
The new agreement aims to address this fragmentation by reinforcing an African voice for science, one that will support African agendas and African capacities, and will amplify the African voice in international science, policy and funding debates and action. By working with Future Africa, the ISC will be able to further efforts on its expanded and distributed ISC global secretariat. The Council will do this by engaging in a co-design process for the voice for science in Africa, with African stakeholders specifically looking at key priority areas for strengthening science systems, identifying the long-term role of the Council on the continent, and supporting the process of establishing an ISC regional focal point.
The Global Knowledge Dialogue was attended by Peter Gluckman, ISC President, Professor Twana Kupe, Principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Pretoria, ISC Governing Board Members and more than 120 representatives from ISC Members, scientists and researchers from the continent and the diaspora.
“This has been a crucial listening exercise for the ISC, and we are confident that under the leadership of a pan-African organization such as Future Africa, we can co-design a strong voice for African science through a future regional focal point. The dialogue has only just begun, and we look forward to developing this vision led by our Members and Future Africa.”Peter Gluckman, President, ISC
“I thank the International Science Council for being open minded about developing new strategies on how best to cooperate with African partners. We as the University of Pretoria, with Future Africa in the lead, throw our full support behind this initiative and are excited about the prospect of fostering closer connections between the ISC and the higher education network in Africa.”Tawana Kupe, Principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Pretoria
Planned activities will also include a broader set of stakeholders and African scientists involved in science advisory mechanisms, combined with Future Africa’s pan-African and global networks, knowledge of African science systems, access to key decision-makers, and relevant capacities to support the scoping and development process.
The agreement enables both organizations to engage in a concrete and inclusive consultative process that uses their comparative strengths and advantages to maximize their impact on African science systems.