Science and technology in Benin
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Science and technology in Benin describes trends and developments in science, technology and innovation policy in Benin and the institutional and policy initiatives at subregional level which may influence Benin's development in the coming years.
- 1 Socio-economic context
- 2 Education
- 3 Policy issues
- 4 Policy framework
- 5 Human and financial investment in science
- 6 Research output
- 7 Regional research centres
- 8 See also
- 9 Sources
- 10 References
In 2012, Benin relied on raw commodities for most of its export revenue. Its three main export products were cotton (19% of exports), petroleum oils or bituminous minerals (14%) and gold (13%). Agriculture accounted for 37% of GDP, the services sector for 50% of GDP and industry for 14%. Within industry, manufacturing contributed 8% of GDP.
By diversifying its economy, Benin would reduce its reliance on fluctuating global market prices for commodities and create jobs for its rapidly growing population (2.64% per year in 2014). According to the World Bank, 'despite moderate GDP growth of between 4% and 5% annually over the past two decades, poverty remains widespread and on the rise in Benin, with national poverty rates of 37.5% in 2006, 35.2% in 2009, 36.2% in 2011 and 40.1% in 2015'.Benin is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
In 2014, Benin ranked 18th on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. In 2011, 57% of the population had access to clean water but only 5% to improved sanitation. One in four 28%) people had access to electricity and one in twenty (5%) had access to Internet.
The average enrollment rate in primary education rose from 88% to 93% in West Africa between 2004 and 2012. According to the ECOWAS Annual Report (2012), enrollment has increased by as much as 20% since 2004 in four countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Niger. In 2010, Benin devoted 5.3% of GDP to education, 15.6% of which went to higher education (0.8% of GDP).
By 2012, Benin had achieved universal primary education and half of children attended secondary school (54.2%). There was also a relatively high enrollment rate in tertiary education (12.4%), which was comparable with the rate in Ghana (12.2%) and second only to the subregional leader for this indicator, Cabo Verde (20.6%). The number of tertiary students more than doubled between 2006 and 2011 from 50,225 to 110,181. These figures cover all levels of tertiary education: post-secondary non-degree programmes, bachelor's and master's and PhD programmes
The research sector has had little impact on technological progress in Benin and the rest of West Africa. Apart from obvious factors like underinvestment, this situation has resulted from the relatively low political commitment to science, technology and innovation on the part of individual countries. Across the subregion, there is:
- a lack of national research and innovation strategies or policies with a clear definition of measurable targets and the role to be played by each stakeholder;
- a lack of involvement by private companies in the process of defining national research needs, priorities and programmes; and
- a lack of institutions devoted to innovation that can make the link between research and development (R&D);
- differences in education systems;
- a lack of convergence among research programmes; and
- a low level of exchanges and collaboration between universities and research institutions.
The main challenges facing research and development in Benin specifically are:
- the unfavourable organizational framework for research: weak governance, a lack of co-operation between research structures and the absence of an official document on the status of researchers;
- the inadequate use of human resources and the lack of any motivational policy for researchers; and
- the mismatch between research and development needs.
In Benin, it is the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research which is responsible for implementing science policy. The National Directorate of Scientific and Technological Research handles planning and co-ordination, whereas the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research and National Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters each play an advisory role. Financial support comes from Benin’s National Fund for Scientific Research and Technological Innovation. The Benin Agency for the Promotion of Research Results and Technological Innovation carries out technology transfer through the development and dissemination of research results.
The regulatory framework has evolved since 2006 when the country’s first science policy was prepared. This has since been updated and complemented by new texts on science and innovation (the year of adoption is between brackets):
- a manual for monitoring and evaluating research structures and organizations (2013);
- a manual on how to select research programmes and projects and apply to the National Fund for Scientific Research and Technological Innovation (2013) for competitive grants;
- a draft act for funding scientific research and innovation and a draft code of ethics for scientific research and innovation were both submitted to the Supreme Court in 2014;
- a strategic plan for scientific research and innovation (under development in 2015).
Benin’s has also been making efforts to integrate science into existing policy documents:
- Benin Development Strategies 2025: Benin 2025 Alafia (2000);
- Growth Strategy for Poverty Reduction 2011–2016 (2011);
- Phase 3 of the Ten-year Development Plan for the Education Sector, covering 2013–2015;
- Development Plan for Higher Education and Scientific Research 2013–2017 (2014).
In 2015, Benin's priority areas for scientific research were: health, education, construction and building materials, transportation and trade, culture, tourism and handicrafts, cotton/textiles, food, energy and climate change.
Human and financial investment in science
In 2007, Benin counted 1,000 researchers (in head counts). This corresponds to 115 researchers per million inhabitants. The main research structures in Benin are the Centre for Scientific and Technical Research, National Institute of Agricultural Research, National Institute for Training and Research in Education, Office of Geological and Mining Research and the Centre for Entomological Research.
The University of Abomey-Calavi was selected by the World Bank in 2014 to participate in its Centres of Excellence project, owing to its expertise in applied mathematics. Within this project, the World Bank has loaned $8 million to Benin. The Association of African Universities has also received funds to enable it to co-ordinate knowledge-sharing among the 19 universities in West Africa involved in the project.
There are no available data on Benin's level of investment in research and development.
In 2013, the government devoted 2.5% of GDP to public health. In December 2014, 150 volunteer health professionals travelled to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, as part of a joint initiative by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its specialized agency, the West African Health Organisation, to help combat the epidemic. The Ebola epidemic has been a tragic reminder of the chronic under-investment in West African health systems.
The Government of Benin devoted less than 5% of GDP to agricultural development in 2010, even though the members of the African Union had agreed to commit at least 10% of GDP to this area in the Maputo Declaration of 2003. They reiterated this goal in the Malabo Declaration adopted in Equatorial Guinea in 2014. In the latter declaration, they reaffirmed their 'intention to devote 10% of their national budgets to agricultural development and agreed to targets such as doubling agricultural productivity, halving post-harvest loss and bringing stunting down to 10% across Africa'. However, African leaders meeting in Equatorial Guinea failed to resolve the debate on establishing a common standard of measurement for the 10% target.
Benin has the third-highest publication intensity for scientific journals in West Africa, according to Thomson Reuters' Web of Science, Science Citation Index Expanded. There were 25.5 scientific articles per million inhabitants catalogued in this database in 2014. This compares with 65.0 per million for Gambia,49.6 for Cabo Verde, 23.2 for Senegal and 21.9 for Ghana. The volume of publications in this database tripled in Benin between 2005 and 2014 from 86 to 270. Between 2008 and 2014, Benin's main scientific collaborators were based in France (529 articles), United States (261), United Kingdom (254), Belgium (198) and Germany (156).
Regional research centres
Several regional research centres have been set up since 2002 that are hosted by West African countries. Benin's participation in these centres should help it to develop science and technology.
African Biosafety Network of Expertise
The African Biosafety Network of Expertise was set up in February 2010 and is hosted by Burkina Faso. The centre was conceptualized in Africa's Science and Technology Plan of Action (2005). As of 2013, Benin had neither biosafety laws, nor confined field trials, according to the network.
Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) established the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) in Praia, the capital of Cabo Verde, in 2010. The centre has been established within the United Nations' Sustainable Energy for All programme. The mission of the centre is to create favourable framework conditions for renewable energy and energy efficiency markets in the 15 member states of ECOWAS. Since its founding, there has been growing external demand for its services.
Two other centres in sub-Saharan Africa will seek to replicate the ECREEE model. One will be established by UNIDO and the East African Community to serve Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. A second will serve the 15 Member States of the Southern Africa Development Community. Both centres should be fully operational by 2014. Other centres are being established within the same network in the Caribbean and Pacific.
West African Biosciences Network
Established in 2002, the West African Biosciences Network (BeCA) was the first of four subregional hubs to be set up by the New Partnership for Africa's Development within the African Biosciences Initiative. BeCA has its hub at the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research in Dakar. The other three networks are the Southern African Network for Biosciences, based at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria (South Africa), the Northern Africa Biosciences Network based at the National Research Centre in Cairo (Egypt) and the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa Network based at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi (Kenya).
African Institutes for Mathematical Sciences
There are five African Institutes for Mathematical Sciences. These are situated in Cameroon (est. 2013), Ghana (est. 2012), Senegal (est. 2013), South Africa (est. 2003) and Tanzania (est. 2014). The one in Senegal teaches in both English and French. Each institute provides academic programmes in basic and applied mathematics, including cosmology, finance and computing, as well as interdisciplinary fields like bioinformatics. Each also provides community services.
The first institute was the brainchild of South African cosmologist Neil Turok. It is planned to develop 15 centres of excellence across Africa by 2023 within the Next Einstein Initiative, a name inspired by the idea that the next Einstein could come from Africa. The project is supported by numerous governments in Africa and Europe, as well as the Government of Canada.
West Africa Institute
The West Africa Institute was established in Praia (Cabo Verde) in 2010 to provide the missing link between policy and research in the regional integration process. The institute is a service provider, conducting research for regional and national public institutions, the private sector, civil society and the media. The think tank also organizes political and scientific dialogues between policy-makers, regional institutions and members of civil society.
- Essegbey, George; Diaby, Nouhou; Konté, Almamy (2015). West Africa. In: UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (PDF). Paris: UNESCO. pp. 471–497. ISBN 978-92-3-100129-1.
- "African Union (AU) Malabo Declaration on Agriculture and Postharvest Losses". FAO. 2014.
- UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (PDF). UNESCO. 2015. pp. 472–497. ISBN 978-92-3-100129-1.