[ABIDJAN] The Malian government has launched a fund for research, technology and innovation, to enable researchers to help meet the country's development needs.
The establishment of the fund was approved by the cabinet on 23 March and the government is expected to make the first money available in October. It will use funds from the privatisation of the Malian telecommunications company Sotelma to set up a seed budget of 500 million CFA Francs (US$1.1 million).
The fund will managed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and funded each year by budgetary subsidies, representing 0.2 per cent of tax revenues, as well as by contributions from partners.
It will finance a variety of activities such as capacity building and the establishment of partnerships between research institutions, universities, companies and other stakeholders. It will also fund research projects through calls for proposals. Previously, only donors financed research.
Fatoumata Diakite Ndiaye, the secretary-general of the government, said that, so far, Malian researchers had faced a number of challenges, including the "lack of internal resources, the poorly developed partnership between the research structures and higher education and the low valuation of scientific production".
According to Ndiaye, the government's objective in creating the fund was to correct those "imbalances and establish a permanent funding mechanism".
She also said that this initiative is the implementation of one of the main recommendations of an education forum held in October 2008 in Mali.
The scientific director of the Institute of Rural Economy (IER), in Bamako, Aly Kouriba, welcomed the fund. But he suggested that the government should ensure that the fund gets a bigger proportion of tax revenues in the coming years.
"For a country to develop, one per cent of GDP [gross domestic product] must be devoted to scientific research. Already, in Mali, the agricultural GDP has reached one per cent."
Kouriba said that the fund is "an innovation as far as research funding as an economic activity is concerned in Mali. Prior to that, only donors financed research. As a result of this, they were the only party to dictate the priorities, areas of intervention and even the duration of the research financed by them."