CHICAGO, Illinois — There is no doubt that African countries can use more aid. But as the continent’s economy rises, it is clear that the growth is primarily built upon the extraction of natural resources, a course that is hardly a model for long-term success. There has been little to no increase in industry productivity.
What sets Africa apart from more modernized countries, and holds it back, is the continent’s dated scientific methods. Without advanced methods, the continent is incapable of creating solutions to health and energy challenges. Once Africa is able to deal with its problems autonomously, poverty will be lowered and the economy will be homegrown.
At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, government and corporate leaders of Africa displayed interest in providing a better education in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM. The broad field of study can take credit for virtually all of the technological breakthroughs for some years. There have already been corporate research centers with educated STEM individuals, but there must be a paradigm change if it is to live up to the potential.
President Obama has already kick-started some of these initiatives. President Obama’s administration is relentless about expressing the values of a STEM education; but more must be done. Africa must access international relationships between government, business and academia for a far-reaching impact .
A scientific partnership with Africa would hardly be out of line with American foreign policy. If anything, not having a single scientific agreement with a single African country is more atypical. American-Israeli partnerships have earned 43 Nobel prizes since 1959. The United States foreign policy involving Pakistan, India and China are heavily focused on scientific agreements, and the U.S. can boast having over 50 international contracts in total.
Currently, projects like the President’s Plan for AIDS Relief and Power Africa have simple but difficult goals: curb or eradicate disease and deal with energy shortages, respectively. But the campaigns are donation based and involve implementing internationally manufactured drugs and solar panels to solve the problems.
Much of the aid is already there, but if the United States and Africa can push a strong initiative to make the latter self-sufficient, all parties would benefit.
– Andrew Rywak