National STI Policy

Introduction

Science and technology have long been recognized as central to the growth and development of Ghana. Several attempts have therefore been made in the past to promote the role of science, technology, and innovation (STI) in the socio-economic development of the country. These past attempts to use STI to drive the growth and development of Ghana have had limited successes. The economic structure has remained unchanged while productivity has seen a marginal increase since independence. One of the primary reasons has been inadequate political commitment and financial support for effective planning and implementation of strategies for the development of STI.

Ghana’s Seven-Year Plan for National Reconstruction and Development (1963/64 – 1969/70) which was prepared during the first republic (under the visionary leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah) envisaged a long term transformation of the structure of the economy. Majority of the labour force at that time was engaged in the agricultural sector, and therefore there was the desire to see more of the labour force move to the non-agricultural sectors.  The Seven-Year Development plan was formulated as the first stage in the sequence of development programmes for the socio-economic transformation of Ghana. One of its areas of principal focus was the industrial production of staple consumer goods and building materials such as clothing, footwear, packaged foods, cement, furniture and other household items which required simple technology and could absorb the new industrial labour force. The production activities were to be based on raw materials readily available in the country and the products were to substitute for similar products which were being imported into the country. There was also the desire to change the structure of Ghana’s international trade.  It was indicated in the said document that “Ghana’s exports – minerals, timber, cocoa – must be progressively processed in Ghana prior to export so that eventually raw materials take second place in the structure of our external trade”.

The second stage of industrialization (as envisaged by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as a follow-up to the 7-Year plan) was to focus on basic industry, ferrous and non-ferrous, chemicals, fertilizers and synthetics.  The third stage of industrialization, as envisaged in the long-term vision of Dr Nkrumah, was to focus on machinery, heavy industries and electronics.

The Seven-Year development plan made the following observation[1]:

“Modern science and technology have made it possible for the younger nations of today to telescope into a few years economic and social development which took generations to accomplish in the older nations. In order to reap the full benefits of its late start in economic development a young nation such as Ghana needs above all to observe two rules of policy, namely:-

(a)    It must embrace modern technology, especially by developing its cadre of technical and managerial personnel

(b)   Its economic and social institutions at any given period must be such as to favour the maximum application of modern technology through a high rate of productive investment”.

On 6 January 1995, the President of Ghana at that time (former President Rawlings) presented his coordinated programme of economic and social development policies, dubbed Ghana –Vision 2020, to the Parliament of Ghana.  Ghana-Vision 2020 states: “The long-term vision for Ghana is that by the year 2020 Ghana will have achieved a balanced economy and a middle-income country status and standard of living, with a level of development close to the present level of Singapore.  This will be realized by creating an open and liberal market economy, founded on competition, initiative and creativity, that employs science and technology in deriving maximum productivity from the use of all our human and natural resources and in optimizing the rate of economic and social development, with due regard to the protection of the environment and to equity in the distribution of the benefits of development ”[2].

One of the objectives of Ghana-Vision 2020 was to provide an enabling environment in which the private sector will be able to achieve desired results. Emphasis was placed on the need to “create an S&T culture at all levels of society and in all types of production to accelerate economic growth and improve the quality of life of the population”.  Science and technology was expected to play a crucial role in economic growth through its impact on productivity.  The strategies for developing S&T were indicated as:

  • “Establish an efficient scientific research that is problem solving and can meet the technological needs of all types of economic activities
  • Create general awareness of the value of S&T in everyday social, cultural and economic activities
  • Adopt technologies, both local and foreign, which continuously improve efficiency in all types of production and make local production internationally competitive”.

The important role of S&T in growth and poverty reduction was also given due recognition in GPRS I (2002-2005) and GPRS II(2006-2009). The Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II) considered S&T as one of the strategic support sectors that would be developed to facilitate improved productivity in agriculture and agro-industry. The major goal of national S&T policy contained in GPRS II was stated as[3]: “to establish an efficient research system which contributes to national development objectives”.   GPRS II acknowledged that “Promotion of a science and technology culture at all levels of the society and the mastery of known and mature technologies and their application in agriculture and industry will accelerate economic growth and social transformation”.    Information and Communication Technology (ICT) was identified as one of the additional sectors to be developed to support growth.  The development of ICT was identified as a priority in diversifying the economy. It was also considered as “a pivotal tool to improve governance, accountability and transparency, develop human resource potential, and strengthen national unity”.  

All the references to S&T in the previous development strategies, as in the foregoing, are still valid today.  In fact, STI is now considered a strategic imperative for developing countries in particular, to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It has been noted that meeting the MDGs “will require a substantial reorientation of development policies to focus on key sources of growth, including those associated with the use of new and established scientific and technological knowledge and related institutional adjustments. Countries will need to recognize the benefits from advances in science and technology and develop strategies to harness the explosion in new knowledge”.[4]   STI is critically needed to increase productivity in Ghana and make the country competitive in the global economy.

In the last few years, especially in the last two years, there has been a demonstrated political commitment to formulate and implement STI policy to drive the development of the country, given the pivotal role STI can and must play in:

  • Promoting increased productivity;
  • Growth and poverty reduction in Ghana;
  • Increasing opportunities to utilize STI to transform the economy;
  •  Avoiding marginalization from the global economy, and
  • Ensuring that Ghana is globally competitive.

In 2007, STI was given prominence in a national consensus building exercise which was initiated by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) to prepare a long-term development framework for the country. Furthermore, in 2009, a process was initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) to prepare a Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy for Ghana which led to the preparation of a draft   STI Policy in February 2010.

Vision, Goals and Objectives of the National STI Policy

Ghana’s science, technology and innovation (STI) policy seeks to build a strong STI capacity to support the social and economic development needs of a middle-income country. According to the national STI Policy, “Ghana intends to migrate from the low science and technology-poor practices and worldview associated with tradition-bound society to an STI and knowledge-based society with an economy based on high levels of production, processing, industrialization and manufacturing. Ghana’s STI policy seeks for the country a future whose STI capability would enable it to produce and process maximally the natural resources that she is blessed with and also has the knowledge base to participate actively in the production of higher technology goods and services for local consumption and for export”.

The principal goal is to ensure that the STI policy is contextualized and fully integrated into a national development strategy which fully harnesses the nation’s total science, technology  and innovation capacity to achieve national objectives for wealth creation, poverty reduction, and competitiveness of enterprises, sustainable environmental management and industrial growth.

The basic objectives of the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy are to:

  • facilitate mastering of scientific and technological capabilities by a critical mass of the products of all institutions;
  • provide the framework for inter-institutional efforts in developing STI and programmes in all sectors of the economy to provide the basic needs of the society;
  • create the conditions for the improvement of scientific and technological infrastructure for research and development and innovation;
  • ensure that STI supports Ghana’s trade and export drive for greater competitiveness;
  • promote a science and technology culture.

The Goal and Objectives of the National STI Development Programme

The goal of the national STI Development programme is to provide a framework for coordinating and directing the implementation of the National STI Policy.  The specific objectives include:

  • Identify priority programmes and projects to implement the strategies  designed to achieve the medium-term objectives of the national STI Policy
  • Provide an indicative budget for implementing the identified  programmes and projects
  • Provide a monitoring and evaluating system that will ensure effective management of the implementation for the required results

Short-term Objectives of the National STI Policy

The short term (considered as the first 5 years in the national STI Policy) objective is to restructure the entire science and technology machinery, infrastructure and programmes in order to make them more responsive to national needs and priorities in all sectors of the economy. To that end, emphasis is to be placed on:

  • restructuring the National Science and Technology Advisory system;
  • improving basic and applied research infrastructure;
  • revitalizing the teaching of science and mathematics at the basic, secondary and   tertiary levels of the education system;
  • promoting the training of a critical mass of middle-level technical personnel;
  • acquisition of skills in high technology areas such as ICT, biotechnology and nanotechnology and their integration into known technologies; and
  • promoting mastery of known technologies and their application in industry.