India pitches for stronger science ties with Africa

New Delhi: Seeking to strengthen science and technology ties with Africa, India today proposed a five-step approach stressing on technology transfer and establishment of pilot projects in the resource-rich continent.

Inaugurating the first ever India-Africa S&T Ministers conference, Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the primary focus should be on enhancing capacity and developing human resources in R&D.

"The soft prowess of scientific and technological cooperation can be effectively leveraged by building bridges between the scientific communities of India and Africa," he told the audience which included Science Ministers from 31 African nations.

Deshmukh suggested visits by experts from India to African nations to identify potential sectors for technology transfers, organisation of joint workshops, technology expositions and marking out agencies that can facilitate technology transfers.

He also suggested developing linkages between industry associations and small and medium enterprises to facilitate technology transfers. "I am glad that a unique feature of the India-Africa S&T initiative is the due recognition of `technology transfer and adoption` as a central theme in our partnership programme," the minister said.

Deshmukh noted that the C V Raman fellowships, launched by India, have received favourable response from African scientists. "We believe through these fellowships we can develop new scientific relationships and also build cultural connections among our countries," he said.

Noting that Indian S&T sector was in a growth phase, Deshmukh urged his African counterparts to seize the opportunity to connect young scientists and build bridges between the next generations. "We should aim to devise effective ways through which we can pool our scientific resources, infrastructure and human intellect," he said.

Human resource development and capacity building can also be achieved through hands-on training programs and advanced schools which can be supported under the Africa-India S&T Initiative, he said. "Through a consultation process, I suggest we develop such modules which are relevant in the African context and can help towards fostering future R&D partnerships," Deshmukh said.

Deshmukh`s deputy Ashwani Kumar said India would be happy to support the establishment of an India-Pan Africa University for Life and Earth Sciences at Nigeria.

Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said India was committed to establish more than 100 capacity building institutions across Africa.

These institutions include Food Processing Cluster, Medium Range Weather Forecasting Centre, University for Life and Earth Sciences, Soil, Water and Tissue Testing Laboratories, Farm Science Centres, Material Testing Laboratories for Highways.

The institutions would also include Rural Technology Parks, Food Testing Laboratories, Centres on Geo-Informatic Applications and Rural Development, Women Solar Engineer Vocational Training Centres, besides Information Technology Centres, Kaur said.