Scientists’ revolution

Knowledge brokering28 Feb 2011Khalil Elahee

‘’The rich and educated should not be silent for fear of losing their privileges!’’. That statement was made not at Tahrir Square, but indeed in Nairobi at the NASAC-KNAW Conference on Climate Change and Food Security (that took place from 23 – 25 February 2011).

Make no mistake, the participants were mostly scientists and the content was highly technical. But right from the beginning, the references to rich governments and corporates buying land in poor countries; to cronyism, patronage, dictatorship and kleptocracy; to social aspects or even to experts working with the community hand-in-hand, set the tempo for the event.

One of the keynote speakers pointed out, quite rightly, that Climate Change was not the only issue. The multidimensional nature of the interactions that occurred at the conference can only confirm that a holistic approach is required. It is a bit of a shame that the policy-makers did not attend. This would have saved them from waiting for the writing to be on the wall to tell them that a new world is needed.

A new vision must be adopted and the type of governance as well as policies to be adopted in the near future will be critical. If it is true that food security is threatened by climate change, the critical issue to understand is that science and technology have allowed production of food to cope with population growth. It can also deliver solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. However, leadership is needed.

The question of leadership is a determining one. It is not about replacing Kaddafi by Kofi Annan as the African symbol of another green revolution. It is about Africa taking ownership of its future. ‘’But who is Africa?’’ it was asked several times at the conference. In spite of our diversity, we could say that everyone who believes in the future is African, even if hailing from Amsterdam or elsewhere. In an era of globalisation of all sorts, Africa is the continent of opportunities. It is up to its people, from Tripoli to Cape Town, to rise to the challenge and weigh in with all their influence in the new multipolar world.

The African experts, in collaboration with their Dutch counterparts, seem to have understood what is expected from them. Kifaya, indeed!