South Africa has identified the development of the Women in Innovation, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (WISTEM) platform as one of the legacy initiatives for the AU Chairpersonship for the year 2020. The platform is an online platform which aims to empower women in ISTEM in an effort to reverse the current trend of women exclusion and address years of gender inequality. WISTEM creates an enabling environment to foster mutual learning, collaboration, networking and exchange of best practices amongst women in the technology sector in emerging, developing as well as developed economies. The platform comprises of various elements that will be implemented in phases, the first of which will showcase innovative technologies and services developed by women entrepreneurs in the technology space across the continent. The WISTEM portal provides a database of Women in ISTEM with the first phase focused on showcasing the innovations of women technology entrepreneurs.
The role of women in development and Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in particular are is firmly entrenched within the continent wide framework - AU Agenda 2063. Agenda 2063 has 7 aspirations, 20 goals, 39 priority areas, and recognised Science, Technology and Innovation as an enabler for achieving the continent’s development, considering the significant role STI plays in all Africa’s development sector. To contribute towards the realization of the AU Agenda 2063, the African Union Heads of States and Governments Summit adopted the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) in 2004 with the mission of “Accelerating Africa’s transition to an innovation-led and Knowledge-based Economy”. WISTEM falls within the fours pillar of the STISA – 2024.
The initiative of the WISTEM platform result from the partnership of the Department of Science and Innovation, Republic of South Africa together with the African Union Commission, African Scientific Research and Innovation Council and the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The WISTEM portal will achieve linkages and networks among women in STEM at national, regional and international levels, as well as in industry and innovation.
Special recognition goes out to the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) for the concept of the platform which was in response to the outcomes of the African Union (AU) First Extra Ordinary Summit of the Committee of Ten (C10) Heads of State and Government Championing Education Science and Technology. The platform will be a “One Stop Shop” database in Africa that provides online support for knowledge sharing, networking, career and business opportunities for WISTEM in Africa.