Global Lab Network hosted the final Science Cafe of 2021 on 17 December on the topic ‘The Role of R&D in Ghana’s National Development‘. The event attracted participants from academia, industry, the public sector, and the STEAM community given its interdisciplinary nature. With contributions from leading academic and industry experts, the session explored the R&D landscape in Ghana and proposed how it can be nurtured to spur national development.
The programme started with a presentation by the keynote speaker Mr Leo Ayerakwa. Leo is currently serving as a Senior Manager, Regulatory Strategy & Preclinical Sciences Expert in the Oncology Business Group at Eisai Pharma Europe Ltd, UK.
Leo’s presentation covered Ghana’s R&D policy and implementation framework, the current state of R&D in Ghana, and the future state of R&D. His recommendations for the future included a 10-point action plan diagnosing and addressing pain points/constraints to harnessing R&D for economic growth. One of the revelations of the presentation was the existence of an independent, non-governmental, and non-profit organisation called Research and Grant Institute of Ghana (ReGIG) dedicated to supporting research and innovation in Ghana by addressing inadequate funding and support for research in the country.
The presentation was followed by a moderated panel discussion reflecting on Leo’s submissions, and exploring how to address STEM education at all levels while providing pathways to meaningful engagement through jobs and innovation. Joining Leo in the panel discussion, moderated by GLab’s Gameli Adzaho, were Prof Marian Nkansah and Dr Kwame Sarpong Asiedu.
Prof Marian Nkansah is an environmental chemist at KNUST and a science communicator who is passionate about linking her research to society to create sustainable impact. She is a multiple award-winning scientist who is a Next Einstein Forum Fellow and an active member of the Global Young Academy. Dr Kwame Sarpong Asiedu on the other hand is a pharmacist and lecturer, with previous leadership roles in the pharmaceutical industry. He is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (UK) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, and a Democracy and Development Fellow in Health with the Ghana Centre for Democracy and Development.
The discussion centred around experiences with the research and development landscape in Ghana, good examples of STI implementation, existing gaps, funding research, going from research to innovation, public perception of science, and the way forward. The point was made that R&D, incorporating indigenous knowledge, can drive government’s One District One Factory initiative for example. The important relationship between research and industry was raised many times in the conversation, while the need to popularise science to inspire behaviour change among citizens was emphasised. On advocating for the scientific community at the highest levels of governance, it was recommended that the Presidential Advisory Council on Science, Technology and Innovation (PACSTI) should team up with the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS).
The session, which was very interactive and engaging, attracted scientists and science enthusiasts in Ghana and beyond. Jekoniya Chitereka, a Zimbabwean science, technology, and innovation policy researcher at the University of Leeds, highlighted the importance of appreciating the non-linear or ‘spaghetti’ nature of the relationship between R&D and economic development. He emphasised the importance of developing strong relationships between various stakeholders to spur innovation. This also brings to mind the importance of interdisciplinary research that address complex challenges.
If scientific research and innovation should play its intended role in Ghana’s development, there is the need to make STEAM education in Ghana fit for purpose, while addressing the funding and infrastructure issues faced by researchers. We must challenge ourselves to implement the plans in our STI policy in order to realise the promise of R&D. Government, industry, academia, and civil society need to work more collaboratively to define, undertake, and utilise research to address local needs. To quote Leo, ‘it is about our collective effort in unlocking all that individual effort in a syngergistic way…’