By Sylvester Thompson
Prof. Olalekan Akinbo, Expert Supervisor at Centre for Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) says STI hold key solutions to curbing poverty and economic development challenges.
Akinbo spoke on the role of STI to national development in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday.
“STI have been central in the progress and development of virtually all the nations of the world, contributing immensely to all sectors of the economy.
“STI are intimately connected with development because they have a historical record of bringing advances that have led to healthier, longer, wealthier and more productive lives.
“They are key ingredients to solutions to the most serious poverty alleviation and economic development challenges that we currently face and are likely to face in the future,’’ he said.
According to him, STI has been central in the progress made till date in the fight against poverty and in stimulating economic growth.
Akinbo said that advances in STI were in many ways the ultimate global for good public use, adding, ”because once discovered, their benefits could be extended to additional users at little or no marginal costs.”
He said in most basic and critical areas of human needs, STI have made significant progress till date, and that they hold the best prospects for continued progress, particularly in respect to agriculture, health, energy among others.
Underscoring STI’s role in agriculture, the NEPAD Expert said advances in STI had facilitated higher yields, greater efficiency and nutritional content in the world’s food supply.
He added: “Food production, however, must double in the coming decades to meet rising demand and challenges entailed in inter alia improving resistance to drought, pests, salinity and temperature extremes.”
Akinbo also mentioned raising the nutritional content and reducing post-harvest losses all in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.
“At the same time, the regulatory challenges of assuring safety in food production and consumption will increase exponentially,’’ he said.
Accordingly, he said that although the necessary technology for increasing agricultural output was available in many developing countries including Nigeria, certain requisites were to be met.
Akinbo said these requisites were the will to advance economically, opportunity and organisation to use technology, elimination of political, social and economic obstacles to development, among others.
Explaining further, he said in the area of food security, advances in STI provided the foundation for the green revolution, and also allowed food prices to remain at historical lows for the past decades.
He stated that improved knowledge of plant biology and breeding techniques led to better seeds and cultivation practices that drastically increased yields.
In the area of economic growth and rural development, Akinbo said STI were tragically important.
He said for many years, policy makers had suspected a close link between economic growth and productive investment in STI, and that now mounting evidence supported this.
He said firstly, since the industrial revolution, developed countries have had the most STI capacity and have been the ones to grow fastest.
“From 1870 to the present, scientifically and technologically advanced countries have become increasingly wealthy, and their rates of growth have not diminished over the years.
“Second, returns to rural development have been shown to be consistently positive and high in countries where science and technology were properly established,’’ Akinbo said.
He added that in such cases, there was always a correlation between innovation and growth. (NAN)