by Adrian Ely, STEPS Centre

The African Academy of Sciences‘ vision is to be the engine driving scientific and technological development in Africa. It was established by prominent scientists, and the membership is still focused around the ‘hard’ sciences, especially physics and mathematics. But from our recent trip to Nairobi it’s obvious that the contribution of the applied and social sciences, and other forms of knowledge, is increasingly recognised.

Interdisciplinarity was an obvious theme in the presentations on the first day of the 4th TWAS-ROSSA Young Scientists’ Conference in Africa on “Science and Technology (S&T) Enterprises in Africa”. There is also a growing appreciation within the academy for different forms of knowledge, as illustrated by the first day’s presentation by Oluwatoyin Dare Kolawole from Nigeria. Toyin spoke on the question: “Intersecting knowledges: What appropriate model for science & local technologies in sub-Saharan Africa?”

Toyin’s presentation touched on various issues, including the processes through which formal or informal knowledges are included or excluded from political debate and support, the attrition of certain forms of local knowledge as a result of ‘dominant’ forms.

Discussions were vigorous, linking to the role of intellectual property in protecting informal knowledge, and the challenge of linking formal science and technology to the informal sector that was reported to make up 80% of Africa’s economy.