Dilemmas of the countries involved gave the

February 13, 2019 Teaching

Dilemmas in the design and implementation of STI policies in the ECOWAS sub-region.
The study had described STI policy plans in force in the ECOWAS states in the previous section. Though technological-capability indicators have shown the bloc still lags behind its compatriots, the study identifies and briefly discusses the dilemmas that have served as a blockade in realizing the bloc’s vision on innovation. Indeed these are the obstacles faced by governments when designing and implementing STI policies in the region.
Reviewing the various policy plans of the countries involved gave the impression that although there appear to be some form of political support in the design of STI policies, the results from the technological-capability indicators proved otherwise. Yet this high-level political support seem to be superficial and is latently absent. There are also variation with the establishment of institutional framework and STI plans. Whereas some countries have made inroads by carving a plan on science and technology (e.g. Ghana and Nigeria), the rest have employed an ad-hoc approach in which the framework provided by the AU and the ECOWAS have become a major policy guide. Government agencies charged with the task of science, technology and innovation policy plans have consistently lacked the resources and enough leverage to discretionary push their agenda.
Moreover, recognition and the role of innovation to stimulate growth remains ambiguous, hence commitment levels being low comparatively. Despite the push by countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali and Senegal and Ugandan through increment in the commitment levels from 0.24%-0.61%, 0.36%-0.79%, 0.25%-0.66%, 0.37%-0.54% and 0.37%-0.48% of GDP, it can be reasonably observed the region in general and the ECOWAS bloc in particular are still far from appreciable levels looking at what is being done elsewhere (e.g. US 3.1% of GDP, and Sweden 3.4% of GDP).
On the alternate source of funding for STI plans in the bloc, the study finds tax incentives to be the best option, although available evidence suggest countries in the region are already burdened with the problem of low tax revenue which makes it a daunting task to implement the policy on tax incentives. This is a major drawback for increased STI public investment. The World Bank (2009) reports that tax revenues as a percentage of GDP in Africa in general is low. For instance in Ghana and Nigeria tax revenue accounted for just 14.87% of GDP and 5.46% in 2008 respectively. This when compared to countries in SADC and EAC member states (South Africa and Angola) had mobilized close to about 26.50%, and 12.46% respectively of its revenue in 2012 from taxes. Kenya and Tanzania as at 2012 had mobilized 19.88%, and 13.8% of its revenue through taxes respectively (World Bank 2013). What this means is that, funds for STI would not be forthcoming as countries are confronted with more social issues that needs redress in the short-term.
Political instability in the region is another dilemma to the implementation of STI policies in the region. STI programs do not stand the test of time owing to the entrant of new government through the adoption of democracy which is still fragile. This is a common practice in ECOWAS member states. Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, and Mali have over the past years experienced instability that have affected progress made on STI. On the other hand, stable economies such as Ghana and Nigeria have had instances where new governments have over-looked policies initiated by its predecessors irrespective of the programs impact on general welfare.
Institutions of higher learning in the region have mainly focused on teaching or basic-science research which has a weaker link to private enterprises. Science and technology institutions that were established from the outset to be the incubating grounds for entrepreneurs and inventors have taken to offering social science and business related programs. For instance, universities such as the University of Science and Technology of Bamako in Mali, African Higher School of Information Technology and Communication in Ivory Coast, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and technology (KNUST) in Ghana and the Federal University of Technology (FUT) in Nigeria, have as a matter of fact diluted programs by offering more arts and social sciences than its pure and applied science programs which is core to its mandate. More emphasis are being placed on teaching as opposed to research that would disseminate ideas to spur innovation.
The study also sees coordination among public organizations and parastatals in the design and implementation of STI policies to be weak. Government agencies often elaborate their strategies but are not fully integrated and coordinated thereby leading to unnecessary competition among these institutions. This is undoubtedly a challenge to improving the impact of STI policies and developing an efficient use of scant resources.
In addition to the ones elaborated above, the study finds the activities of financial systems in economies such as Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to be less incentivized enough to support innovation in the bloc. New entrepreneurs and existing firms hardly get access to financial sector to finance innovation activities. Venture capital are few and even in other jurisdiction almost non-existent. The gestation periods for actualizing the full potential of new inventions often takes time, and this is a disincentive for existing financial institutions who are already faced with liquidity and solvency risks.
Indeed ECOWAS member states and the entire sub-Sahara Africa are seen to be far behind when it comes to STI due to the dilemmas outlined. It should be emphasized here that the dilemmas presented shares common traits with what pertains in most developing economies: weak education systems (Aubert, 2004; Segarra-Blasco et al. 2008), design and implementation failure and political instability (see Woolthuis et al. 2005), lack of coordination among public organizations and failure to monitor (Hadjimanolis ; Dickson, 2001; Willie et al. 2016), lack of financing mix (Segarra-Blasco et al. 2008) and lack of human resources (Aubert 2004; Naim 2014).

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