What We Can Learn from the South-South China-Africa Science and Technology Cooperation and Innovation for Social and Economic Benefits Symposium 

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In a world where global challenges such as climate change, food security, and environmental degradation demand collective efforts, the recent symposium held in Nairobi, Kenya, from September 25–27, 2023, shed light on the power of collaboration and innovation in transforming Africa’s economy for the betterment of society and the environment. This can be achieved through collaboration on upscaling innovation and technologies that can drive economic growth by creating new industries and increasing agricultural productivity, reducing reliance on single sectors. This diversification fosters global competitiveness, attracts foreign investment, and supports entrepreneurship and small businesses. Sustainable resource management and solutions to global challenges can enhance long-term economic resilience, allowing African nations to secure a prosperous future through collaboration and innovation.

The symposium brought together a diverse group of experts, including scientists and researchers from the African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the African Union, the Consortium of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), CGIAR Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP),  the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA), the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), and the China-Africa Innovation Cooperation Center (CAICC).

At its core, the symposium aimed to enhance science and technology cooperation and innovation for social and economic benefits between African Union Member States and China through ongoing flagship programs. The event was organized around three central themes:

Agricultural and Food Systems Transformation, which recognized the urgent need to innovate and improve agricultural practices to ensure food security for a growing global population. Discussions emphasized the importance of scaling innovation through strategic partnerships and technology transfer, thereby addressing the challenges and solutions required for widespread adoption. Prof. Ereck Chakauya delved into the crucial topic of re-evaluating the commercialization of publicly funded R&D in Africa. Drawing lessons from the SANBio Network of Biosciences, Prof. Chakauya emphasized the necessity of consolidating a country’s innovations under a unified platform, overseen at the highest levels of decision-making. This approach, he argued, would expedite the decision-making process for upscaling innovations. Prof. Chakauya also pointed out the significance of ensuring that innovations benefit researchers as well as the institutions hosting these researchers. “Innovation is when you use knowledge to make money, therefore we need to use knowledge to make money,” he added.
Biodiversity Conservation and Utilization which is the backbone of healthy ecosystems and a crucial resource for sustaining life on Earth. The symposium explored ways to balance the protection and sustainable utilization of biodiversity through innovative research and monitoring methods.
Water Resources and Environmental Protection: Water is a finite and essential resource that requires careful management. The symposium discussed techniques and capabilities for managing water resources effectively, promoting sustainable use, and protecting water environments. One of the symposium’s highlights was the keynote address by Prof. Jelel Ezzine, who underscored the critical importance of addressing climate change. He highlighted the history of climate treaties and emphasized that Africa must not only be heard but also actively be supported by the Global North to mitigate the impacts of climate change. He concluded by underlining a critical point, “The only path out of this man-made chaos is to prioritize Degrowth in the Global North and sustainable Growth in the Global South, all within the limits set by nature.” This showcases the necessity for a global shift towards sustainable and balanced economic development emphasizing the need for developed nations to focus on reducing their ecological footprint (degrowth) while supporting sustainable growth in less developed regions to enable more equitable and environmentally sustainable future.

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