Press Release

Nov. 10, 2014


Report Recommends Steps to Enable African Countries to Take Ownership of Continent’s Development Agenda

KAMPALA, Uganda – Today national science academies representing several African nations released a report that lays out a vision and strategy by which African countries can take greater ownership of the development agenda across the continent. It recommends steps to give all sectors of society a stake in and responsibility for development goals, and it emphasizes the need for a shift in mindset in order to drive these changes.

The report notes that historically Africans have rarely led the development process; instead, development has been largely characterized by the receipt of international aid, which has failed to create sustainable development outcomes. Recently the concept of country ownership has emerged as the backbone of successful development. The history of populations that have successfully lifted themselves out of poverty demonstrates that the process is first and foremost an intellectual transformation, the report says. While technology, infrastructure, and finance play essential roles in this transformation, it is people and their capabilities that must leverage these material assets.

Released at the annual meeting of African science academies this week in Kampala, the report is intended to inform the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – a vision set forth in 2013 for Africa’s next 50 years of development – as well as the UN’s planned Sustainable Development Goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals that expire in 2015.

The report identifies five levers of development that could catalyze country ownership of development and recommends steps that African leaders, communities, and citizens should take in each area.

Communities. Communities lie at the core of owning African development, the report says, since national-level structures currently are not providing the resilience offered by traditional community structures. The report recommends that African leaders should involve communities in development planning and implementation, integrate their cultural practices into the development framework, and invest in marginalized groups, such as women working in agriculture, to tap into previously ignored capacities. Communities should self-start development initiatives using the resources currently available to them.

Education. Africa’s citizens represent one of the continent’s greatest untapped resources, the report says. Governments should invest substantially more in the skills and knowledge of their people, with curricula adapted to the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063. Governments, businesses, and academic institutions should conduct assessments to determine the capacities, skills, and knowledge needed to achieve development goals. Governments should also improve their role as accreditation and regulatory bodies, clearly articulate the roles and responsibilities of different ministries and public and private institutions with an education mandate, and ensure basic digital and computer literacy across the population.

Health. Even with significant international and domestic attention, efforts to improve health in Africa have progressed very slowly, the report says. Governments should invest more in the basic physical infrastructure that promotes health, including clinics and water treatment facilities. They should also redirect more domestic resources toward policies of universal health insurance; natural resource revenues should be considered as a way to finance these policies. Governments should also invest more in the training and education of workers in the health care sector. Regional and international bodies, including the African Union, should examine the feasibility of an integrated, collaborative health care framework.

Capital. The report recommends steps governments and communities can take to leverage Africa’s capital in four areas to meet development goals.

  • Governance capital. Government, civil society, and the private should collaborate to create a transparent and honest environment to enable development. Governments should legislate greater transparency, enforce laws and rules more stringently, increase the ease of doing business in their countries, and invest in physical infrastructure.
  • Natural resources. African governments should immediately undertake an assessment of the natural resources available in their countries and invest in education and training to help increase their ability to capture the value of these resources. Governments should carefully leverage revenue from natural resource extraction to generate broad-based economic growth.

  • Technology capital. Institutions should partner to ensure the availability of capital goods and technology transfers that enhance productivity and efficiency. Because Africa is at a crossroads where sufficient infrastructure can actually determine the pace of development on the continent, national, regional, and local governments should invest in infrastructure.

  • Financial capital. To date, African governments have neither adequately marshalled monetary capital for domestic investment nor broadened the local tax base. The mobilization of domestic resources through a fair system of taxation – of both citizens and corporations – defines a sustainable financial system. African governments should simplify and universalize tax codes so they apply equitably across society. Financial institutions should promote diverse vehicles for domestic saving to increase the number of citizens and businesses. Governments should design fiscal policy to support entrepreneurs, and African leaders should advocate on the world stage for measures addressing illegal capital flight.
Institutions. The primary route to stable institutions, both public and private, is increased capacity, which is realized through transparency, accountability, and equitable access to resources. The report recommends many steps to build institutions, including that African governments should invest in private-sector institutions through arms-length interventions that increase the availability of credit and infrastructure for small and medium-sized enterprises. Governments should also invest in systems whereby institutions are able to evaluate and learn from their past experiences.

The report, Mindset Shifts for Ownership of Our Continent’s Development Agenda, was released by the national science academies of South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and the regional Network of African Science Academies. The study that produced the report was conducted under the auspices of the Committee on Ensuring Country Ownership of Africa’s Development Agenda in the Post-2015 Era. Staff and technical assistance also were provided by the U.S. National Academies, which partner with the above African science academies under the African Science Academy Development Initiative.


Ann Nsubuga
AMASA 10 Coordinator
Uganda National Academy of Sciences
[email protected]
tel. +256 414-533044 or +256 705-409-416 (mobile)

William Kearney
Director of Media Relations
U.S. National Academy of Sciences
[email protected]
tel. +1 202-334-2144 or +1 202-450-9166 (mobile)

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Photos provided by Peter Arnold Inc., U.S. Agency for International Development, World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.