2011 ATPS Annual Conference

For research to have the impact of guaranteeing development gains in Africa, research results must inform and shape policies and programmes, and be adopted into practice. Developments at various levels are hinged on the generation and implementation of appropriate policies, the building of requisite human capabilities, adequate technological infrastructure, as well as enterprise capital base to bolster the various development initiatives.

While the linkage between policy and national development is often moderated by other factors, it cannot be denied that the absence of a strong and appropriate policy framework, that incorporates solid theoretical and empirical research and the points of view of multiple stakeholders, may spell disaster for any national development agenda. Fortunately, African leaders have seen the wisdom on the need to empower policy creators, even though this effort is in its early stages, in virtually all the domains linked to national development, particularly in science and technology, economic transformation, food security and health – key factors in any positive national growth agenda.

In spite of sporadic progress in some African countries, the use of policy heavily informed by research evidence in critical domains in policymaking still leaves much to be desired. Africa’s policy agenda has not fully exploited the expertise of African professionals, leaving the African policy landscape much too influenced by the agendas of external development agencies, consultants, and bilateral development partners. This has raised the question of whether Africa’s priorities are truly at the heart of its development agenda. There exists a high propensity for African governments to readily overlook local research capacity in favour of expatriate researchers and ad hoc consultancies.

It has therefore become imperative to review the linkages between research, policy and practice with a view to identifying strategies for strengthening the uptake of development research into policy and practice in Africa. It is important to note that sustainable policy research and implementation linkages in Africa will require the development of a strategic vision and a proactive approach that contextualizes the research agenda and its consequent activities. It requires a proper understanding of research communication and knowledge translation so as to facilitate the use of research evidence to influence policies and effect change in practice. This can be achieved through sustained systematic interactions and capacity building amongst key stakeholders including researchers, policymakers, and the practitioners. This forms the focus of the proposed international conference.

The proposed conference aims to strengthen the gains from an initial consultative workshop on strengthening linkages between policy research and policymaking for African development held in Mombasa, Kenya in February 2011 and organized by the African Technology Studies Network (ATPS), in partnership with the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPRAN) and African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET). During the consultative workshop, stakeholders recognized the importance of appropriate policies derived from research evidence in fostering national priorities for African development. Stakeholders were cognizant of the gap between policy research and policymaking in Africa and its negative influence on national developments. They recalled the commitments of African leaders to the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) flagship programmes including; agriculture and food security; climate change and natural resource management; regional integration and infrastructure; human development; economic and cooperate governance; gender and capacity building; and their pledge to allocate 10% of national budgets to agriculture, and 1% of GDP for research and development (R&D) in support of the above programmes.

The outcomes from this workshop has further guided the consultative group on the way forward for engaging a wider stakeholder group for making better impacts on strategies for strengthening linkages between research, policy and practice for African development.