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  • Botswana 'not using its potential for strong science'

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A major report released this week by the government of Botswana and the United Nations Development Programme concludes that the country is not meeting its potential to develop its science and technology capacity.

Harnessing Science and Technology for Human Development says that despite having one of the strongest economies in the developing world and a high-tech information and communications infrastructure, Botswana is "neither involved in science and technology innovation nor its diffusion at any significant level".

The report says Botswana meets the basic requirements for building a strong science and technology sector. But it notes that despite having cutting-edge equipment with which to conduct "significant research", its scientific institutions have "failed to deliver".

The report suggests that a lack of focus in funding, and problems recruiting and retaining skilled workers are to blame.

Another significant factor is the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has depleted Botswana's human resources and drained financial resources from development.

The report recommends developing a core of expertise in health research and development in order to face future epidemics, and creating a 'centre of excellence' in HIV/AIDS research.

Increased funding is necessary to build research capacity at universities, it adds.

Another recommendation is that Botswana's institutions introduce postgraduate training programmes — initially in collaboration with foreign partners — rather than send postgraduate students abroad as currently happens.

According to the government-owned Botswana Press Agency, the country's science minister Pelonomi Venson said Botswana is committed to developing national science and technology capacity and policies.

Venson added that a bill establishing a national funding agency to support science and technology would be presented to parliament later this year.

"We hope to bring into focus how science and technology can accelerate the pace of human development in Botswana and how human development, in turn, can promote the creation and implementation of technological breakthroughs," said Bjoern Foerde, the United Nations Development Programme's resident representative in Botswana.

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