The two day Conference of India Africa S&T Ministers today began at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi. The Minister of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh inaugurated the Conference amidst enthusiasm and hope of better future. Following is the text of Hon’ble Minister’s inaugural address:
“I begin my address with a warm welcome to all you of you present here. This city of Delhi is historic. The occasion today is also historic. The first Indo-African S&T Ministers conference offers a special occasion. We have assembled here to develop a new platform and a concrete road map of cooperation in science, technology and innovation with African countries. This value based cooperation needs to be built on principles of shared vision, mutual understanding and goodwill.
During the India-Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in 2008 the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh had announced substantive commitments of India to engage with African nations. This included the landmark 'Africa-India S&T Cooperation Initiative’. In pursuance of the Summit declaration, the Department of Science & Technology in partnership with our Ministry of External Affairs is working on a new Africa-India S&T Program in partnership with the African Union since 2010. The initiative aims to proactively develop S&T linkages with institutions in African nations. The primary focus should be to enhance capacity building and development of human resources in R&D. The goals are long term so that we are able to generate true partnership and value based relationship that has mutual benefit. The soft prowess of scientific and technological cooperation can be effectively leveraged by building bridges between the scientific communities of India and Africa.
There are several 21st century challenges which India and African nations have to meet together in their journey for economic development. Science, Technology and Innovation could play an effective role in meeting some of these common challenges. For instance the requirements for food, energy, water and affordable health care are common challenges. The adverse impact of climate change is a shared global concern. Inclusive growth is a priority need of both India and countries in Africa. Building inclusiveness and rapid growth based on equity is not an easy task. Sustainable development in the world of economic imbalance and disparity is even a greater challenge. Current IPR regime in a competitive world order becomes a factor for denial of affordable technologies. New paths may be required to develop corrective models through partnership. I believe, India-Africa S&T cooperation should embark upon new tools and models which can be of mutual good by creating a win-win situation.
Your Excellency's, I would also like to inform you that under the African S&T initiative we have made a modest beginning. The prestigious CV Raman Fellowships have been launched. This annual fellowship program offers opportunity for a large number of scientists from Africa at different stages of their careers to undertaking research work with their counterparts in Indian R&D institutions and universities. We believe through these fellowships we can develop new scientific relationships and also build cultural connections between our countries. I urge upon all of you to popularize this fellowship scheme in your respective countries. We need to achieve the full utilization of the opportunities provided under the fellowship program. 5. Indian S&T sector is in a growth phase. The infra-structure in our laboratories is being strengthened. Most of our R&D and academic institutions are now actively engaged in international collaborations with allows mobility of students and researchers. I see here an opportunity for science and engineering students at the Masters and PhD levels from Africa to undertake student internships in Indian research institutions. Through this exposure we can connect the young scientists and build bridges between next generations. While brain-drain to other developed countries may be an issue for developing economies, I can assure you that while sending your students to India, such concerns may not be relevant!
Human resource development and capacity building can also be achieved through hands-on training programs and advanced schools which can be supported under the Africa-India S&T Initiative. Through a consultation process, I suggest we develop such modules which are relevant in the African context and can help towards fostering future R&D partnerships.
We have also embarked upon a plan to strengthen the capacity of identified institutions under our cooperation initiative. The objective would be to strengthen some of the institutions engaged in research activities which have cross cutting impact on a regional scale. This can be achieved by building institutional and academic twinning with institutions in India. Under this program, visiting faculty from India can also work in institutions in Africa and share knowledge and technical expertise. To begin with, in consultation with the African Union with we have identified three such institutions in Africa who are represented in this conference.
Today the challenges faced by humanity are global in nature and no nation alone can face and mitigate these issues. At this forum where leaders and policy makers are represented, we must make a collective effort to identify some of the areas of mutual interest in research which we can address together.We should aim to devise effective ways through which we can pool our scientific resources, infra-structure and human intellect.
It is important for any nation to convert the fruits of scientific and technological research to contribute both at the policy planning level and for economic development. I am glad that another unique feature of theIndia-Africa S&T initiative is the due recognition of 'technology transfer and adoption' as a central theme in our partnership program. Through the technology exposition which we have put together as a part of this two days conference, you will get a glimpse of selected homegrown technologies and innovations. Some of these technologies being frugal and affordable can easily 'touch the lives of the untouched people' in both India and Africa. Affordable innovations and traditional knowledge sectors could form the wings of Indo-African partnership.
A few initial thoughts that come to my mind to facilitate this interaction could be through: • Visits of expert delegation from India to African countries for identification of an initial set of potential sectors for technology transfer/collaboration;
• Organization of joint workshops, technology expo, road shows for requirement assessment and feasibility study;
• Identification of agencies that can provide the technology for transfer to the African countries;
• Develop appropriate linkages between industry associations and SME's to facilitate tech transfers; and
• Facilitating technology transfer and establishment of pilot scale demonstration plants in Africa.
I therefore call upon all the leaders' participating in this conference to embark upon a new paradigm of S&T partnership 'where giving and sharing is gaining'. A partnership, that will enable us to meet our aspirations together.
I take this opportunity to once again reiterate India's full commitment in furthering our new S&T relationship with African nations. I am quite confident that this first ever India-Africa S&T Ministers conference will provide a new dimension to our future scientific and technological engagements. Finally, I would also like to thank Your Excellency's for honouring our invite and to participate in this conference. We will explore together the endless possibilities and new horizons of working together in the true spirit of mutual trust, respect and selfless friendship”.