Integrating Humanities Approaches To Shaping African Technological Development: The Case For An Indigenous Futures Component In The Science, Technology And Innovation Agenda In Africa

In this study, I and my co-author focused on the state of Futures Studies/Strategic Foresight in Africa, identifying why Africa needed such a transdisciplinary component in its Science, Technology and Innovation networks at various levels. These include Policy,  Higher Education, Government, Private Sector; in order to adequately tackle its challenges including energy, food security, urban development, water resources, and health.

A quote from the study :

As the world moves forward with cutting edge advances in green energy, biotechnology, nanotechnology and computing and as Africa eyes these fields as potential areas where Africa’s perennial issues with energy, health, and security can be resolved, futures offers a unique gambit. Prospecting and implementing new technologies often come at a price.But what are these prices? Does Africa know them and are we ready to pay them? Futures techniques will help African countries to understand from trends and based on scenarios generated, which technologies would be best for each country’s specific needs and based on what conditions. Thus it would be possible to balance costs of alternative energy sources, responsible energy consumption, and low carbon economies.

I presented this study at the 2012 African Technology Policy Studies Network(ATPS) Annual Conference and Workshop in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

The Abstract is shown below and the Paper presented can be found here.


This study reviews current literature on science, technology, and innovation in Africa to study the practice of using data projections augmented with philosophical approaches to science and technology research, and proposing alternative futures. The study focused on research addressing alternative futures related to energy, food security, urban development, water resources, and health in Africa. The motivation for the study was derived from the following questions: Is Africa too embroiled in its current challenges to think of creating a future full of innovation? What does Africa need to evolve sustained advancements in science and technology? Are we at risk of over-investing in structures and processes that are on their way to becoming obsolete or irrelevant while under-investing in the means of success in the future that is dawning on us? Is the major challenge to African competitiveness its lack of vision? And can Africa adequately prevent future challenges by pre-empting them?

Findings showed that although the study of alternative futures is not new in Africa, most of these researches are not indigenous. This was seen to be related to existing problems with knowledge translation and the institutionalization of research systems. Other challenging factors include political tensions over African resources; economic pull towards more lucrative jobs in the science and technology sector; lack of research capacity for implementing trans-disciplinary approaches and collaborations in African academe; poor funding for humanities research due to perceived irrelevance to productivity; and a culture of and bias towards empirical approaches in producing and consuming scientific research. The study further examined how a futures agenda could help shape the growing emphasis on sustainable development and balancing the cost of alternative energy sources, responsible energy consumption, and low carbon economies. Conditions necessary for improving the study of futures in science and technology in Africa were proposed. Channels for improving communication of futures research within the scientific community, and enhancing cross-disciplinary research collaboration, were also described. The discussions also made a case for seeking to pre-empt future challenges by expanding knowledge sources, information sharing, and validation mechanisms to create a sound empirical basis for predicting alternative futures, evolving policy, and guiding resource investment for a sustainable future.

ATPS Image 1

Conference Participants at the 2012 ATPS Annual Conference and Workshop

Source: ATPS

Proceedings from the conference can be found on the ATPS website here (my presentation is discussed on page 91).

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