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The government of Botswana is seeking a private partnership to overcome delays in getting its long-awaited science and technology university off the ground.

The deadline for opening the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) has been moved from this year to 2009 (see Two-year delay for Botswana's science university).

Badumetse Hobona of Botswana's Ministry of Education, the coordinator of the US$1.5 billion project, says that a public-private partnership will make the 2009 target possible.

In a paper published by the US Institute for Public Private Partnership in February, Hobona states that the country's Ministry of Education is still marketing the project to potential partners.

The education ministry is in the process of appointing a transaction advisor, who will undertake a feasibility study to determine the extent of private sector interest and potential funding levels. The advisor will also develop a plan to be used in marketing the project to potential partners.

So far both local and international companies have expressed interest. Hobona says the procurement of private partners will follow the existing tender procedures required by Botswana's regulations to ensure transparency.

The government will finance those aspects of the project that may not attract private finance, such as land purchase and labour.

"The private sector will not only be involved in the financing but also in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the facility, and will also participate in the development and delivery of BIUST curriculum to ensure its relevance to the needs of the country," said Hobona.

The government hopes BIUST will produce a workforce capable of participating in technology transfer and facilitating economic development.

Legislation for the establishment of the university is now in place, and a 1,700-hectare plot has been purchased in Palapye, about halfway between Botswana's capital Gaborone and its second largest city, Francistown.