Programme / International Funding for STI in Africa: Help Or Hindrance?

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Day 2

Wednesday / 8 nov

16:30 - 18:00

Special session:
International Funding for STI in Africa: Help Or Hindrance?
Organised by:  SciCom / DST
Venue: King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre, Dead Sea 1 - Sea Floor

Round-table abstract:

International funding – especially from philanthropy, development cooperation agencies, and multilateral agencies, constitutes a significant share of the total R&D spend in Africa. For example, in South Africa where national R&D expenditure is just below 0.8% of GDP, approximately 15% of this is sourced from foreign funding. Whilst science prospers through international cooperation and attracting foreign investment to strengthen science and innovation capacities is pursued by developed and developing countries alike, this session will examine if an over-reliance on international funding, as is often the case in Africa, distorts national R&D agendas.


Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Report claims that twice as much is being lost in illicit financial outflows than received in aid. Unethical tax avoidance, transfer pricing and anonymous company ownership are obliterating the benefits governments gain from international funding. Furthermore, much is being done outside the governmental framework with civil society groups and foundations raising billions for their ‘Africa work’ with scant governance or, indeed, financial accountability in place, Ebola being a recent example amongst many.


In Africa-55 countries where little if any public funding is available to support national R&D programmes, domestic researchers are “forced” to pursue foreign funding as an objective in its own right. This is often for mere survival, at the price of sacrificing work on strategic national priorities, as well as the obligation to comply with frequently onerous administrative obligations attached to the funding. Do we need to re-focus our best researcher minds away from the international and back to the national or regional? Do we risk upsetting the apple cart, at best, or biting the hand that feeds us, at worst, if we ask for greater co-ownership, co-production and co-responsibility for example, in the EU’s African Union Research Grants Programme or the African Academy of Sciences meritorious efforts to develop African-led continental research programmes involving funding from international partners such as the UK’s Wellcome Trust?


This panel will explore the significant policy challenge of developing vibrant international cooperation partnerships and attracting foreign funding, while complementing national investments that support national programmes and do not hamper them. Representing African governments, academies, civil society and institutions such as the African Union, speakers will juxtapose the reality on the ground with the ambitions of Africa’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA).


Organiser: Aidan Gilligan (IRL), CEO, SciCom – Making Sense of Science; Media Manager, WSF 2017 Jordan; Elected Member of the Governing Board, Euroscience; Executive Committee Member, International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA).


Co-organiser: Daan du Toit, Deputy Director-General: International Cooperation and Resources, Department of Science and Technology, Government of South Africa.


Event video