In a 2005 report, the Commission for Africa, a 17-member panel of experts convened by the then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, recommended that Africa promotes science and technology through partnerships with other developing countries such as Brazil and India, international organizations such as the World Bank and donor nations. The Blair Commission recommended the development of African centres and networks of excellence.
Earlier in February 2001, the late Nelson Mandela proposed to Heads of African States and the World Bank, the establishment of a network of African Institutions of Science and Technology (AISTs) for knowledge building and the advancement of SET in SSA with a view to improving living conditions in the region by ensuring economic diversification, increased productivity, accelerated growth and job creation. It was thus Nelson Mandela's great concern about the knowledge gap between SSA and the rest of the world, and his strong desire to see an African Nobel Laureate during his lifetime that prompted the development of the AISTs Concept, at the turn of the 21st Century. It is recognized that realization of such a vision requires the establishment of institutions which would serve as the foundation for cutting-edge research and postgraduate training in SSA, for there is no worthy research without great and world class institutions. The AISTs are tasked with training and developing the next generation of African scientists, engineers and technologists, who will impact on the continent's development through the application of science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI).
The specific objectives of establishing the AISTs fall under three broad headings, namely; human capital development; improvement of Africa's education system to enable achievement of quality education for all; and knowledge generation, incubation, and dissemination. The AISTs are being developed as high quality, research intensive institutions with rigorous training programmes of international standards in SETI to meet the technology development needs of SSA. The principal aims of the AISTs are to:
- Produce the highest quality scientists and engineers who are dedicated to finding solutions to Africa's problems and who would champion the technological advancement of SSA;
- Provide a conducive environment for science and technology research excellence in SSA;
- Attract high level researchers of African heritage from the Diaspora and others;
- Positively impact on the quality of Africa's education through close collaboration and interaction with existing tertiary institutions across SSA; and
- Contribute to the training of a critical mass of well qualified African scientists and engineers who will become technology leaders and industry captains in Africa's quest for economic and technological advancement.