Political economy insights for science system transformations in sub-Saharan Africa

Science, technology and innovation (STI) systems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) play a crucial role in addressing a range of development challenges. However, building and strengthening STI systems in SSA is as much a political and economic challenge as it is technical.

A team of researchers from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex and the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Kenya have conducted a political economy analysis of the STI systems in five SSA countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania – and provide recommendations relevant to each national case, especially for each national Science Granting Council.

Common themes emerge from the case studies, including low levels of funding for research, human resource constraints, weak linkages across innovation ecosystems, ineffective governance and development strategies, and gender and inclusivity issues.

In response to these findings, the researchers have provided a series of key recommendations for science systems transformations in SSA, including, the need for STI ecosystems actors and stakeholders in SSA to:

  • Broaden understandings of innovation beyond products, services and technologies, and understandings of STI systems beyond university-industry linkages.
  • Focus on capability building that achieves systems-level impact.
  • Design broad training appropriate to individual skills and organisational capacity.
  • STI actors need a deeper analysis of what constitutes the private sector in Africa. This will help improve understanding of the relevant political economy factors influencing the sector.
  • Intensify attention to gender and inclusivity issues in SSA’s STI systems.
  • Sustain efforts to embed research excellence across SSA’s STI ecosystems.
  • Encourage and support policy experimentation.

Read the full policy brief: Political economy insights for science system transformations in sub-Saharan Africa

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