The 2021 PARTICIPATE programme kicked off on 25th January with a webinar exploring some of the challenges and opportunities for environmental researchers interfacing with policy in Africa. Hosted by Dr Akan Odon and the RECIRCULATE team, the webinar featured specialists from Kenya, Ghana, Malawi and the UK. Each guest-speaker shared their experience of working with policymakers followed by questions and group discussions with the attendees.

Dr Nicholas Ozor (Executive Director, African Technology Policy Studies Network) summarised a review of the policy landscape for eco-innovation in Africa. Recognising that eco-innovation is generally a fairly new concept, but overlaps many other sectoral policies. In the six studied countries (Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi) there is no stand-alone Eco-Innovation policy but there is increasing recognition and goodwill on the importance of adopting new eco-friendly technologies.

Prof. Elijah Wanda (Director General, National Commission for Science and Technology, Malawi) reflected on the need for continued and enhanced investment in STEM for infrastructure, equipment, and research projects utilizing both public and private sector investment. STEM education should be promoted from early childhood development through the entire education pathway to higher education programmes in a gender-responsive manner.

Prof. Esi Awuah (Prof. of Civil Engineering/Water Management and Global Advisor Africa Sanitation Think-Tank, KNUST Ghana) spoke about water policy and management in Ghana. She highlighted the importance of harmonization of all stakeholders to clearly define the role of each stakeholder with regards to the management of water resources and a proper institutional arrangement is required to facilitate the delivery of water to all stakeholders.

Prof. Grace Wamue-Ngare (Prof. of Gender and Development Studies, Kenyatta University) discussed the opportunities in developing and maintaining a gender responsive policy for STEM in Africa. She stressed the need to focus on ecosystem engagement, starting by changing the narrative. We need to lobby for women`s participation in development/implementation for STEM in policy. If you look at the ladder of policy engagement and influence, the gender gap narrows as you go to the top. We should appreciate the law of gender and authentically utilize it in policy formulation, implementation and evaluation.

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