Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Africa losing faith in conference diplomacy"

Read the full article by Calestous Juma in Business Daily Africa (September 20, 2007).

Dr. Juma notes that African nations post large delegations in the expensive locations where the international organizations plan and host their big conferences, and those conferences keep recommending policies to fight poverty in Africa, but very little actually comes as a result of those conferences. He suggests that these nations emulate the Swiss House for Advanced Research and Education (Share) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Share, a joint effort of the Swiss Federal Department of Interior and the Swiss Federal Department of the Foreign Affairs, is the country’s first foreign mission dedicated to education, research, innovation, art and design. Share facilitates collaboration between Swiss and American researchers and advises Swiss scientists on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Dr. Juma writes:
African countries could do the same by redirecting some of the sources currently locked up in their missions to the UN. Similarly, these countries can scale down their participation in non-essential multilateral negotiations and use the resources to support science and innovation consulates in key technology centres around the world.

For example, having a science and innovation consulate close to Silicon Valley in California could be more beneficial than supporting new development negotiations.

African countries are laying the foundation for such diplomatic transformation by starting to focus on economic diplomacy. This is not only reflected in the decisions of the AU but is evident in proposed revisions in the foreign policies of several Africa countries.
Comment: It sounds like Professor Juma, a world leader in science and technology policy, is on the right track. I am not sure that Silicon Valley and the Route 128 Corridor are the key sites for African economic diplomats. Perhaps Singapore and Sao Paolo, Beijing and New Delhi would be even better. But I too am skeptical of the payback from the conferences of the multinational agencies is as great as that from economic diplomacy with the technological innovators and productive businesses. JAD

No comments: