Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals

9 - 10 May 2024
Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals

In the face of accelerating climate change, the burgeoning capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI), and the urgent pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the convergence of these domains presents both formidable challenges and unprecedented opportunities. As governments, the private sector, and the academic science and engineering communities come together at the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum), the focus was on harnessing the transformative power of science, science advice, and a wide range of technology solutions, most notably AI, to address the pressing challenges of climate change and achieve the SDGs by 2030. 

A background note ( # 5p.) outlines key issues, actions, and policy challenges, providing an initial framing for the discussions at the Forum.

Extracts of the programme:

Thematic session 3: Bridging the science, technology and innovation divides to eradicate poverty and end hunger (SDGs 1 and 2) 

According to FAO, digital agriculture could increase agricultural productivity by 70% by 2050, feeding up to 9.7 billion people globally. Digital innovations can also play a key role in promoting sustainable peace and resilience. Moreover, AI when used to optimize a specific goal may cause other problems – farmers using AI to optimize productivity may ignore the ecosystem damage it causes. Early warning systems for natural disasters, conflict prediction algorithms, and platforms for community engagement and resource sharing can enhance societal resilience and peacebuilding efforts. In particular, AI-driven early warning systems for natural disasters have the potential to reduce disaster response times by up to 50%, saving countless lives annually. 

Thematic session 7: STI partnerships for accelerating structural transformation in African countries, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries

For Africa, addressing the digital divide, fostering innovation ecosystems, and investing in education and capacity building are crucial. Only 28% of Africa has Internet access, compared to a global average of 59%. Closing this digital divide by 2030 would require an estimated investment of US$100 billion in digital infrastructure. Policies might support sustainable economic development, leveraging AI and technology to address health, education, and agricultural challenges. However, the energy for such AI needs to be provided by non-fossil fuel energy to avoid lock-in, and the water needed for AI needs to be factored in given that water budgets are often over allocated already. 

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