The African Academy of Sciences was conceived on the 6th day of July 1985 when 22 prominent scientists met in Trieste, Italy, at the inauguration of the Third World Academy of Sciences TWAS) and devised the concept of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). A task force under the chairmanship of Prof. Thomas R. Odhiambo completed and presented the consitution of the AAS within six months. On 10th December 1995, this Constitution was ratified at a meeting held at the TWAS headquarters at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. thirty- three African scholars who had taken part in the July and December meetings in Trieste became Founding Fellows with Prof. Thomas R. Odhiambo elected as the first President of the AAS.
Membership has grown rapidly from the initial 33 members in 1985 to 107 in 1995, representing 24 African countries and 5 countries overseases.
The Academy set out its mandate to cover four principal areas:
I. Mobilization and strengthening of the African scientific
community in Africa;
II. Publication and dissemination of scientific materials;
III. Research; development an dpublic policy; and
IV. Capacity- building in Science and Technology. Developments in these areas are highlighted below.
I. Mobilization and Strengthening of the African Scientific Community
(i) Profiles of African Scientists. This project, initiated in 1988 with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, has seen the publication of two editions featuring 400 and 600 African scholars respectively and the establishment of an accessible database.
(ii) Profiles of African Scientific Institutions. Under this project profiles of 186 institutions were published in 1992.
(iii) Specific Assistance to Regional Scientific and Professional Associations: Under this programme, the AAS assisted scientists and regional institutions to organize conferences meetings and symposia; to publish their proceedings and also to have their funds channeled through the Academy.
(iv) The AAS/Ciba Prize for Agricultural Biosciences: As an honorific society, the Academy and Ciba of Basel, successfully awarded the first prize to Prof. S.O. Keya (Kenya) and Prof. H.S. Salama (Egypt) in 1991. The second prize (1993) was awarded to Prof. Keto E. Mshigeni (Tanzania) while the third prize (1995) was awarded during the AAS 10th Anniversary celebrations to Prof. W. Marasas (South Africa).
II. Publication and Dissemination of Scientific materials
The Academy Science Publishers, established jointly by the African Academy of Sciences and the Third Wordl Academy of Sciences in 1988, publishes:
(i) Whydah: The quarterly newsletter of the Academy was launched in 1987 and to date 32 issues have been published, reaching a world- wide readership.
(ii) The quarterly, peer- reviewed multi- disciplinary research and policy journal, Discovery and Innovation, started in 1989, is now in its 7th volume and reaches thousands of scientists in hundreds of institutions the world over, as authors, reviewers, subscribers and readers.
(iii) Books, proceedings, reports, pamphlets as well as other publications are published by the Academy Science Publishers, the publishing arm of the Academy. to date, ASP has published more than 19 books, 4 serials and various general publications.
III. Research, Development and Public Policy
(i) The Special Commission on Africa (SCA)
Inaugurated in 1989, the SCA has established itself as a think- tank which meets to deliberate Africa's main problems such as:
* internal conflicts, peace and development in Africa; and
* regional integration and economic cooperation in Africa.
Appropriate avenues are being investigated by the AAS to make the SCA an authoritative developer of improved discourse on Africa's future as well as on the interaction between Research, Development and Public Policy toward the 21st Century.
(ii) Drought, Desertification and Food Deficit (DDFD)
The final session of the Academy Inaugural Conference on Drought, Desertification and Food Deficit in Africa (DDFD) agreed on a set of implementable recommendations and of a programme of action within the capabilities of AAS. From this mandate, the AAS has developed major capacity building programmes and is seeking to launch a long- term programme on Drought and Desertification in Africa jointly with the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
IV. Capacity Building in Science and Technology
(i) Research Priorities for the Education of Girls and Women in Africa (FEMED Research) is a joint research grant activity of the Academy and the Task Force of Donors to African Education (DAE) Working Group on Female Participation (WGFP). The two main goals of the project which commenced in October 1992 are:
To support research which leads to a better understanding of the sex difference in school participation in sub- Saharan Africa.
To encourage researchers to monitor policy-oriented experiments which have the potential to enhance female education, particularly in rural areas.
The FEMED Research project awards an average of 16 small competitive grants, 3- 5 commissioned studies as well as promoting capacity building and enhancing of research skills and dissemination of information and research skills.
(ii) Capacity Building in Soil andWater Management in Africa (SWM)
This programme has so far evolved in two phases. During the first phase of the project (1991- 1993), over 20 grants were awarded to proven and promising African scientists in institutions of higher training and research within the continent in all aspects of soil and water management. the individual or group grants of US$12,000- US$15,000 were supplemented by a technical support package consisting of overhead cost component (15 percent of the grant) to the institution where the researchers were affiliated.
The second phase (1995- 1997) is aimed at concentrating efforts in the creation of a centre of excellence where research and post- graduate training facilities can be maintained, staff supported and from which a breakthrough can be made in the field of soil and water management in Africa. The Academy, under this second phase will provide 15 scholarships to promisisng scientists from the Eastern and Southern Africa to undertake M.Sc. training and research at the Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Nairobi. Therefore upgrading this department to a regional centre of excellence for SWM in the region.
(iii) Capacity Building in Forestry Research (CBFR)
This programme has also evolved in two distinct phases: In the first phase (1991- 1993), the Academy awarded more than 30 competitive grants to young scientists to undertake research and training of relevance to forestry- led development in Africa. The second phase (1994- 1996) encompasses not only grants to young scientists but fellowships to senior scientists as well. The two main goals of this second phase are:
To create a critical mass of scientists who undertake research which leads to a better understanding of forestry- led development in Africa.
To utilize the existing capacities to undertake research and policy studies of trans- disciplinary and trans- national significance as applied to capacity- building in forestry- led development in Africa.
The above objectives will be achieved through the award of grants, commissioning of policy- oriented research and organization of conferences, symposia and roundtables.
(iv) The African Training for Leadership and Advanced Skills (ATLAS)
The ATLAS programme is a capacity- building and post-training professional enhancement programme. This is a joint programme between the Academy and the African-American Institute. It is aimed at improving the ability of African institutions and organizations to plan and promote substainable development by strengthening the management and technical skills of highly qualified Africans who are now, or will be in positions of leadership.
(v) Capacity Building for Young Professional Women
This is a joint programme between the Academy and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Its aim is to transfer policy analysis and management capacity as well as leadership skills to young and middle- level women professionals to prepare them for participation in policy- making decisions in their countries and communities. The preparatory phase included country surveys within the region, a brainstorming meeting and the publication of its proceedings.
Contact: Executive director, African Academy of Sciences (AAS), P.O. Box 14798, Nairobi, Kenya. Fax: 254-2-884406; tel: 254-2-884401/2/3/4.
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