From November 29 to December 1, Burkina Faso will hold Africa’s first-ever meeting dedicated to scientific diplomacy in Ouagadougou. Titled “Nexus sciences and diplomacy: Speeding up Africa’s Transformation through Technological Innovation”, the conference was initiated by the President of the Republic, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, and is led by Professor Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
Underlying this initiative is the conviction that many of the world’s most urgent, interconnected and complex problems can be solved by combining diplomacy and science. Challenges like the current COVID-19 pandemic and global warming prove that science and diplomacy can bring countries together to address global challenges that no single nation can handle on its own.
Unique challenges in the Sahel and Africa
Many countries in the Sahel and Africa face common challenges, such as access to water, lack of food resources and energy, global warming in an already arid region, and cross-border terrorism.
But the problems they face offer both challenges and development opportunities. “There are real opportunities for scientific collaboration and water diplomacy (“hydro-diplomacy”) to foster development and peace in the Sahel,” says Lassina Zerbo. In an area where several countries are landlocked, transnational cooperation is the most practical way to develop effective solutions to the region’s challenges.
Raising awareness among African leaders
Despite this, obstacles – such as divergent political and economic agendas and cultural sensitivities – hinder the wider application of science diplomacy in Africa. The barriers also stem from the lack of qualified practitioners, the weak links between research and policy, and the limited role of research institutes, universities, and civil society in Africa. The conference is intended to raise awareness among African leaders of the potential of science diplomacy to address the continent’s challenges.
Several heads of state, primarily from Africa, will participate. Several international institutions will also be represented (ADB, IAEA, ECOWAS, UNODC …), either in Ouagadougou or remotely, while high-level speakers from the research world (MIT, IRD, CIRAD …), business or civil society will also take part in the discussions.
Massive student participation
A large number of students are expected to attend, thanks to the live broadcast of the conference in several Burkinabe and foreign universities. A “technology village” will allow national and international companies to find buyers for their innovative solutions and technical and financial partners to pursue their development in critical sectors like agriculture, security, energy, or health.
Registrations for “Nexus sciences and diplomacy: Speeding up Africa’s Transformation through Technological Innovation” can be made at this address: https://science-diplomatie.org