AYFST Sierra Leone
Most African countries are endowed with rich natural resources but their improper utilization and the omission of science and technology for development has jeopardized the continent’s potential for economic growth. In June 2006, the African Youth Forum on Science and Technology (AYFST) was formally launched, with the motive of bringing the African youth into the centre stage for participation in Africa’s development. AYFST – Sierra Leone was formally launched on the April 7, 2007 following a two-day national youth workshop on Science and Technology. The workshop was mainly designed to build the capacity of the Sierra Leonean youth in Science & Technology, and break the chain of social exclusion of the youth in policy decision-making for sustainable development in Sierra Leone. The central theme of the workshops was ‘food security and health for sustainable development: the Sierra Leone youth perspective’. The meeting also served as a follow-up of the formal launching of the AYFST in Accra Ghana, in June 2006.
The workshop was well attended bringing together thirty youth drawn from various disciplines including agriculturalists, medical practitioners, engineers, technologists and social scientists.
The workshop was flavored by rich presentations from various resource persons including officials of the ministry of Youths and Sports and the National Science and Technology Council (NaSTeC) of Sierra Leone, as well the AYFST Coordinator and National Chairman. Although the ATPS country chairman was unavoidably absent, he gave his full backing to the workshop and its outcome. The presentations served as a spring-board for the youth participants to brainstorm and come up with suggestions and viable recommendations for the country’s development. According to the AYFST Chapter coordinator, Festus Amadu, science, technology and human capital are closely interlinked for economic growth and development but these linkages were not prominent in the Sierra Leone context. During the workshop, the Director of Youths and Sports acknowledged that the present youth policies in Sierra Leone neglect the role of science and technology and advised the AYFST- the Sierra Leone to advocate for the integration of science and technology into the then forthcoming renewed youth policies. Another issuehighlighted during the workshop is that science and technology must not only be promoted, but that the supporting institutional structures and facilities should also be provided in order to enhance capacity building, training and research. The Government of Sierra Leone should enact a Science and Technology Opportunities Act (STOA), which will encourage a culture of science and technology in the country. There should be a strong national scientific research coordinating unit established in Sierra Leone. Appropriate technology should be encouraged and adopted in the agricultural, educational and health sectors for food self-sufficiency and economic growth in the country.
Other recommendations made during the workshop include an immediate integration of science and technology policies in the national youth policies in Sierra Leone;and young Sierra Leoneans should be involved in the formulation and implementation processes of such policies
No country today can boast of sustainable economic development without a strong scientific base and a critical mass of scientists and technologists. There is an exclusion of the youth (in SL and most of Africa) from mainstream macroeconomic policy formulation and implementation, which has relegated them (the youths) to an oblivious position of indifference, thereby worsening the underdeveloped state of the continent, and completely dampening the prospects of sustainable development. At the end of the workshop, participants produced a communiqué addressing impediments, opportunities and recommendations for effective application of S&T in Sierra Leone’s development. The Communiqué was shared with stakeholders in government and the ATPS national Secretariat for action to be initiated. Following the formal launching of AYFST-SL, several moves were made by the national executive to rally members of the Sierra Leone government to adopt and incorporate the AYFST vision into a national Programme for the benefit of all Sierra Leonean youths. Consequently, there have been some successes recorded so far. The Sierra Leone PRSP II recognizes the role of youths in the development process of the country; therefore it has vital sections committed to youth empowerment. This includes the Youth Employment Scheme, which provides/caters for the provision of jobs to unemployed youths; and The Youth Agricultural Engagement Scheme, which is intended to provide, among other things, support for production centres for young people to receive training in agricultural productivity for a specified period.
The ministry of Agriculture now has a Youth Coordination Division. The Sierra Leonean Parliament now has about 25% youthful population compared to previous years when it had less than 5%.
- Resource constraints. This is a major factor, as it dictates our level of operations, and limits our activities to smaller scales. It goes without saying that most government policies are not always backed by action when it comes to the disbursement of funds. This seems to be the case in Sierra Leone.
- Low awareness and interest amongst the youth populace concerning AYFST-SL and its activities. There is a risk that some youth may begin to see the AYFST as a another ‘talk shop’. They see it as highly academic yielding very little by way of financial rewards which seems to be the major interest of youths today.
- Poor coordination between the AYFST-SL, the ATPS Country Chapter, and the AYFST Global Chapter. Time lapse in communication between the global chapter and the country chapter tends to dampen the spirit of committed country chapter members.
- Lack of an improved ICT facility for the country chapter to help the chapter transform itself from a passive to an active and effective partner in national development.