By Chikumbutso Mtumodzi
Addressing the high-level 5th Conference of the Global Sustainable Technology and Innovation Community (G-STIC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Sunday, October 24, 2021, President of the Republic of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera emphasized that technology and innovation are the surest way of guaranteeing that no nation is left behind, guaranteeing that no nation misses the train of human progress.
President Chakwera said technology and innovation are the new Cuneiform that we must make available to a world that is still largely operating on Hieroglyphics models of social order.
“The undoubtedly critical role of Science, Technology and Innovation has been clearly defined in many development policies at Global, Regional and National levels – from the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), (Continental), the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 with STISA 2024 as a medium-term development plan, the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) to the new Malawi Vision (MW 2063),” said President Chakwera, adding that on July 27, 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Resolution titled Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which decided to establish a Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
President Chakwera said it is in this regard that the African Union Agenda 2063 also recognizes Science, Technology and Innovation as multi-functional tools and enablers for achieving continental development goals. The 2063 Agenda emphasizes that Africa’s sustained growth, competitiveness and economic transformation requires sustained investment in new technologies and continuous innovation in sectors such as agriculture (to end hunger – SDG 1), energy (SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy), education (SDG 4) and health (SDG 3) among others.
TECHNOLOGY AND MALAWI 2063 VISION
President Chakwera said in line with AU Agenda 2063, Malawi Government developed the Malawi 2063 vision to focus on three pillars of Agriculture and Commercialization; Industrialization and Urbanization; and Science, Technology and Innovation are embodied as enablers of that Vision, whose aim is to make Malawi an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant nation by year 2063.
“For that to happen, we believe that Malawi’s industrialization must be driven by research, science and technology development. Toward that end, Malawi has implemented its second Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, with such success stories as the establishment of National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST); establishment of the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST); the setting up of Malawi Academy of Sciences; the promotion of Women and Girls in science, engineering, technology and innovation; the profiling of Science, Technology and Innovation in development planning of Malawi; and the construction of a national fibre backbone to make internet services nationally accessible.
“As such, we have laid a foundation for global partnerships and investments in new technologies that will fast track sustainable development goals and give investors access to an exciting new market in the SADC region in general and in Malawi in particular,” said the Head of State.
At the conference, President Chakwera highlighted three major global challenges that nations need to confront collectively, including using scientific and technological innovation.
President Chakwera noted that climate change has brought the world to a critical inflexion point, to the edge of the cliff, where the world must either all turn around now or face destruction on a global scale.
President Chakwera said in Malawi, climate change is no longer a foreign concept or distant enemy, but a clear and present danger assaulting people with annual floods, regular droughts, and extreme weather, leading to soil degradation, human displacement, and crop destruction. To this day, Malawi is still dealing with the negative effects of Cyclone Idai, which hit the region two and a half years ago, “and yet climate change is not waiting for us to recover before launching new waves of attack”.
President Chakwera said next on the list of global threats is human poverty, with all its attendant inequalities in such basic things like food security, job security, health security, housing security, education security, rights security, water security, and social security.
President Chakwera said in Malawi, a beautiful nation of 28 districts rich in natural beauty, natural resources, natural friendliness, natural peace, and the world’s strongest democracy, poverty has become a stain that does not do the people justice. There is no district in Malawi where human poverty does not confront you, and yet when one considers the riches Malawi is naturally endowed with, they can only conclude that what is needed is the human innovation to translate those riches into sustainable development that ushers in a new dawn of shared prosperity.
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
President Chakwera said third on our list of global threats is human disease, Covid-19 being the latest manifestation, which has not only killed close to 5 million people around the world in less than two years, but has disrupted life, destroyed livelihoods, and fermented attitudes of suspicion and discrimination.
“Malawi itself was not spared, as we are now in the 19th month of the pandemic, which has so far claimed 2,296 lives and slowed down our economic growth as a result of restrictions we have had to impose on society by declaring a state of national disaster on two separate occasions.
“In fact, the pandemic traumatized us by its swift and indiscriminate killing of high profile and ordinary citizens alike, on one occasion leaving my fledgling nation in a state of shock by claiming the lives of two senior members of my cabinet on the same morning.
“Yet in the midst of this darkness, the place of innovation and technology in our recovery has become accelerated and evident, while the injustice of vaccine inequality has become exposed and must be ended, because there can be no human innovation unless it is humane innovation,” said the Malawi leader.
ADDRESSING CHALLENGES TOGETHER
According to the President, these are challenges nations must address together, challenges that cannot be addressed by one nation alone.
“However, even an army as united as we are cannot prevail against powerful forces like these without arms, and this is why we must democratize the global advancements in technology and innovation to accelerate the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals by all nations,” said President Chakwera.
DUBAI THE CITY OF WONDERS
President Chakwera informed the delegated that when one arrives in Dubai from anywhere in the world, there is always a sense that they have travelled from some place in the past to some place in the future.
“When you look around you, what you feel you are seeing is not merely development, but wonders of the human imagination. Whether one is looking at the Burj Khalifa scaling heights and piercing parts of the sky that no other building can; or the Frame that stands on the land like a vessel descended from an advanced alien civilization in a distant galaxy; or the palm islands that float upon the blue waters of the Gulf; or the Metro that takes half a million people around Dubai in a state of suspended elevation, what you are made to feel is nothing short of wonder.
“It is therefore fitting that we have gathered here in the City of Wonders, for this Fifth Conference of the Global Sustainable Technology and Innovation Community (G-STIC), to reimagine what it would look like to leverage technology for the creation of a better and more sustainable world for all of humanity. It is also fitting that we have gathered here in the City of Wonders when the world is at the crossroads in terms of making our very existence on this planet sustainable for generations of human beings yet to be born.
“At the same time, gathering here in the City of Wonders confronts us with an irony, for we have gathered in the world’s most beautiful city to consider how we can use technology to confront the world’s ugliest challenges currently making human life on earth unsustainable.
“I am not talking about challenges that are unique to one nation, but those that confront us all together as a global community,” said the President of Malawi amidst a deafening applause.
Heads of State and Government, Jan Jambon, Minister-President of the Government of Flanders, Reen Al Hashmy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of EXPO 2020 Dubai, Dirk Fransar, Managing Director of VITO and Heads of Research and Technological Organizations were some of the high-profile dignitaries at this year’s G-STIC conference in Dubai.