Weak science, technology and innovation (STI) infrastructure are negatively impacting Ghana’s development, some scientists in the country have said.

They are concerned the country has not paid adequate attention to research and adequate investments in science and technology over the years, essentially denying nationals the potential benefits of STIs.

Ghana currently spends about 0.3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) on science and technology despite a recommendation from an African Union at an executive council meeting in Khartoum that all countries on the continent spend at least 1% of GDP on science and technology.

“Our government’s contribution towards research development and capacity building has been very low. Government upon government have not cared much… the interest has not been there,” Dr. Michael Owusu, a scientist at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology said in an interview.  

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is one of the 6 agencies under the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, with the mandate to lead the country’s science and technology drive.

It is the foremost national science and technology institution in Ghana with mandate to carry out scientific and technological research for national development. 

But former Director of the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr George Owusu Essegbey in a 2016 paper published in the Technology and Investment journal revealed apart from the payment of salaries, CSIR receives only about 20% of the budget approved for it by parliament annually to undertake real research work.

This leaves the CSIR heavily dependent on donor funding with its attendant consequences.

“A lot of the research activities are funded by external organizations. This meant that they didn’t look into what Ghana was interested in but what these external organisations are interested in,” Oliver Boachie who is special advisor to the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation explained in an interview.

“Most of the time, when the results came out, they might not even be available to Ghana because those who funded the research own the intellectual property. So, even if it’s our own people were engaged to do the studies, we don’t have the intellectual property,” he added.

Mr. Boachie is also concerned there is also too much research work ongoing in Ghana that is irrelevant to national development because of lack of harmonization of research work.

“The STI infrastructure in the country was very weak. A lot of research activity has been taking place that have no alignment with what the national priorities are,” he said with concern.

To re-align national interests when it comes to research, the country has established the Ghana Innovation and Research Commercialisation Center (GIRC Center) to harmonize national research programmes. The center which will be linked to a soon to be established National Research Fund (into which money to the tune of at least 1% of GDP will be invested), will receive proposals and assess them based on national interest.

Funding for the basic research that led to the setting up of the center was provided by the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI), a multi–funder initiative aimed at strengthening the research capacities of 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The model for the establishment of the National Research Fund was also based on that of an existing fund in South Africa which is one of the SGCI funding countries.

Mr. Boachie says the support is helping get Ghana on track when it comes to ensuring the nation benefits greatly from science, innovation and technology.

“All this is what we hope to correct and make sure that we know who the actors are and know what they are doing and we want to make sure that if it is research that is funded with public funds, then it has to inure to the nation’s benefit,” he explained.  

“We identified this problem once we took office and over the last three years, that has been one of the focus areas for us. To strengthen the STI systems in the country.

To develop far-reaching policies that will put STIs at the center of national development. We believe that should be the fulcrum around which socio-economic development occurs,” Mr. Boachie added.  

“So that has been our focus and I think we have done quite well. There have been a lot of challenges because of the mindset that existed with the non-prioritization of STI.

Even resource allocation that should be made to push STI agenda has been very, very difficult to come by. But things are changing because the actors who take the decisions are coming to that realization that STI is important,” he concluded.

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