The role of science, technology and innovation, on prosperity, sustainability and resilience: the African context

Mr Kekgonne Baipoledi
Ms Dorothy Ngila
Ms Geci Karuri-Sebina
Prof John Mugabe
Prof Shireen Assem

Mr Kekgonne Baipoledi

I am currently the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology.Responsible for Research, Science and Technology coordination functions. This includes responsibilities for both Research, Science and Technology as well as Radiation Protection Inspectorate.

I have served as a member of various boards and committees of Parastatals and other institutions. Have also served at national and international levels such as at joint FAO/International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as national project coordinator, and as scientific consultant. From 2008 – 2014 I served in World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) committees setting international standards for the global control of livestock diseases and laboratory diagnostics and research. Has represented the region (SADC) at AU-IBAR planning platforms for animal health and production.

I was appointed Head of National Veterinary Laboratories from 2001 to 2010 of which during this period I led in the development of a National Veterinary Laboratory to become a reputable regional and global facility for livestock disease diagnostics and animal health research.

I have previously served as Deputy Permanent Secretaryin the Ministry of Agriculture responsible for Technical Services which included coordination of both Livestock services and Crop production from 2014 to 2016.

Ms Dorothy Ngila

Dorothy Ngila advances her career at South Africa’s National Research Foundation. She coordinates the NRF’s contribution to the Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa. Under 35, she serves as the Chair to the Executive Committee of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World South African National Chapter; and the Gender Working Group of the Global Research Council. With an Afropolitan background (Kenya, Botswana and South Africa), Ms Ngila possesses MSocSci (Geography and Environmental Management, University of KwaZulu-Natal) and BA (Public Administration and Environmental Sciences, University of Botswana) degrees. She is currently studying towards a PhD in Science and Technology Studies.

Prof John Mugabe

John Ouma-Mugabe is Professor of Science and Innovation Policy at the Graduate School of Technology Management (GSTM), University of Pretoria and founding Director of the Foundation for Innovation and Technology-Africa (FIT-Africa) Pretoria, South Africa. He is an Associate Faculty at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex. He is former Executive Director of the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) Nairobi, Kenya, and former Director of the Office of Science and Technology of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Midrand, South Africa. Prof. Ouma-Mugabe holds a doctorate degree in political economy of technology and environmental policy from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He serves of many boards and committees of international organizations and programmes.John Ouma-Mugabe is a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS) since 2001, Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) since 2013 and Fellow of the Academy for Engineering and Technology for the Developing World (ATEWD) since 2018. He has published widely on science, technology, innovation and environmental policy in Africa. His current research focuses on the political economy of science, technology and innovation policy-making in Africa.

Prof Shireen Assem

Shireen Assem is a Professor of Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. She is currently serving as The Vice President –for Research- at the Agricultural Research Center (ARC) in Egypt since June, 2018. She has also served in other positions at the ARC including the Director of The Agricultural Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Research Institute (AGERI), from 2014 to 2018; the Deputy Director for Training and Extension at AGERI from 2010 to 2014 and Head of Department of Plant Molecular Biology at AGERI from 2007 to 2010. She has been awarded a Fulbright Post Doc fellowship in 2002 to 2003 at The University of Central Florida, USA. She is currently a member of the African Union High Level Panel on Emerging Technologies for Africa’s development. Moreover, she served as a member of the National Biosafety Committee in Egypt. Dr.Assem participated in several basic and applied scientific research projects as the Principal Investigator on the national and the international levels for the development of improved plant varieties for Egypt and other developing countries tolerant to different biotic and abiotic stresses to cope with the climatic changes and satisfy human needs with population growth.

The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) is the focal point within the United Nations for science, technology and innovation (STI) for development. As such, it plays a central role in analysing how science technology and innovation, including ICTs, serve as enablers of sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda. The CSTD acts as a forum for strategic planning, sharing lessons learned and best practices, providing foresight about critical trends in STI in key sectors of the economy, the environment and society, and for drawing attention to emerging and disruptive technologies. It informs the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly.


In May 2018, the CSTD selected two priority themes – “The impact of rapid technological change on sustainable development” and “The role of science, technology and innovation in building resilient communities, including through the contribution of citizen science” – for its 22ndsession (2018-19 period). The purpose of this session is to exchange best practices and lessons learned in the African region for harnessing rapid technological change and the building of resilient communities for the sustainable development goals. The outcome of the discussion will be shared with the UN CSTD at its intersessional panel meeting in January 2019 (Vienna, Austria) as well as the annual session in May 2019 (Geneva, Switzerland).




Rapid technological change in recent years is having a broad impact on the economy, society and the environment. Frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, Internet of Things, synthetic biology, satellite and drone technologies can create great opportunities to address the SDGs in numerous areas, including in helping to achieve goals related to poverty, health, agriculture, education, clear water, energy and financial inclusion. At the same time, rapid technological advances can outpace the capacity of governments and society to adapt to the changes that they bring about, as they can affect labour markets, perpetuate inequalities, and raise ethical questions.


As countries and communities seek to balance the benefits and challenges brought about through rapid technological change, they can be affected by shocks from different origins including natural disasters, economic shocks, health emergencies, social conflict and war. Therefore, building the capacity of communities to respond, mitigate and recover from shocks is critical to reduce the social and economic impact of these shocks.  New and emerging technologies, particularly, those digitally enabled, have the potential to strengthen the resilience of communities. For instance, they enable citizen science that can crowdsource data to help to gather rapid information about the safety of people during natural disasters and data analytics can help to predict the flux of refugees.


Science, technology and innovation(STI)has a key role insupporting sustainable and resilient societies. Cities aroundthe world are already usingfrontier technologies likeartificial intelligence and Internet of Things enabled technologiestoimprovewaterandenergymanagement,transportationsystemsandpublicsafety.Renewableenergytechnologies,such as off-grid solutions can provide an increasing share of electricity, as wellas clean andsustainable energy in rural areas.  Technology foresightand assessment techniques can also help policy makers to identify trends andsupport planning to take advantage of rapid technological change and enact adaptation and mitigation strategies for building resilient societies.The session will provide an opportunity for high-level policymakers to exchange experiences, lessonslearned and best practicesin supporting sustainable resilient societies and responding to rapid technological change.


Guiding Questions


  • What are the key emerging technologiesand their current and potential applications that could give an opportunity to solve great societal challenges and achieve the SDGs?What are the best practices/lessons learnt in applying thesetechnologies in the context of the SDGs?
  • What are the risks and challenges of rapid technological change for the society (e.g., employment and skills)? What are the strategies, policies and immediate actions to take to address these challenges and mitigate risks?
  • How can we ensure that rapid technological change does not perpetuate and exacerbateinequalities and digital divides between and within countries?How can we make sure that new and emerging technologies benefit all the society, including women, the youth and marginalized groups?
  • Do these technologies offer developing countries opportunities for leapfrogging? What are the actions needed to reap the development opportunities provided by rapid technological change?
  • What are effective STI policies and strategiesto prepare societies for rapid technological change?
  • Which new scientific, technological and innovative applicationsshould be a priority in terms of their potential for building sustainable and resilient societies?
  • How can STI be adapted to local socio-economic conditions and engage with indigenous knowledge?
  • How can technology assessment and foresight help countries evaluate technologies to enhance the resilience of communitiesand better adapt to the changes induced by rapid technological change?
  • What are the actions that the international community and the UN system, including the CSTD, can take toleverage STI for sustainable and resilient societiesin the context of the SDGs?