African expert links development to industrial revolution

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Henri Hogbe Benlend, founder and first president of the African Mathematical Union, Thursday said the poor under-develoved of these days are those who missed the train of the 19th century industrial revolution.
Benlend made the observation here in a paper presented during the Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora, on Africa, science and technology, current and future prospects.
According to the Mathematician, also Cameroon's former minister of scientific research and techniques, "the driving force that leads to the wealth and prosperity of nations no longer lies in the riches of the soil and sub-soil, but in the creative spirit of men and women".
In that regard, he said "Africa must build and conduct its endogenous process of ownership and mastery of science and technology in the service of its economic, social and cultural development".
On the basis of the experiences carried out so far in Africa, Benlend, who revisited all the resolutions taken by African heads of state in this area, proposes a programme for Africa's scientific renaissance.
Among other recommendations, he proposed the promotion of a better management by African countries of the "Grey matter" which he deems highly strategic.
To this end, Africa must use its national competence for international qualification and put in place conditions that enable African experts of the Diaspora to bring, from their host countries, their contribution to the scientific and technical development of their country of origin and African in general.
If Africa is lagging far behind in the field of scientific and technical research, it is because there are no centres that have an indispensable critical mass of teachers/researchers, Benlend said.
"At present, no African country, except for South Africa, has such critical masses in any scientific discipline whatsoever," he pointed out.
In these conditions, it is necessary "to encourage and promote sub-regional and continental cooperation in the spirit of the Lagos Plan of Action, a strategy that recommends the setting up of sub-regional and continental scientific and technical excellence centres and networks gradually equipped with indispensable human, material and financial means".
Benlend believes that "Africa must break with any idea of "transfer" of obsolete and outdated technologies and to resolutely take the path to the mastery of new technologies: microelectronics, computer science, biotechnologies, technologies of new and renewable energy sources, composite materials, space and ocean technologies, etc.
Moreover, "their mastery, and not their transfer, makes it possible to control the perverse effects, especially on the social, cultural, security and national independence fronts".
It is equally important, according to Benlend, to favour a synergy between universities and enterprises to create conditions for the mastery of new technologies.
The mathematician also recommends the strategy of the alliance between new and traditional technologies, on the analogy of modern and traditional medicine.
Benlend takes issue with the notion that "Africa must break with the idea that the financing of science and technology in the continent should, as a matter of priority, rest on foreign assistance, the main characteristics of which are that it does not last forever and it is based on the interests of donors".
For him, international experience shows that one of the efficient mechanisms to ensure the sustainable financing of science and technology is that of creating Foundations.

07 october 2004 23:58:00

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