By: Charles Mkoka and Michael Malakata


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[LILONGWE] Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika has asked his finance ministry to reconsider prioritising science and technology funding to foster economic growth, acknowledging that a lack of scientific and technological expertise poses serious problems for the country.

On returning from the African Union summit on 30 January, Mutharika reiterated his commitment to open Malawi's planned University of Science and Technology and also pledged to create an international scientific centre of excellence in Malawi.

The centre would build capacity to diagnose epidemics and bring together experts to discuss issues such as hydrology, genetic engineering and biotechnology.
"As long us the researchers bring us the technology to care for our people we will provide the resources, " said Mutharika.
He told reporters that Malawi trailed behind Egypt, Rwanda and South Africa due to lack of scientific capacity. He cited how contracts to mine uranium deposits in the northern Karonga district had to go to foreign firms, since Malawian entrepreneurs lack the technical expertise to exploit mineral deposits.

"We have depended on donor countries for scientific development for so long. It's time we commit more resources in our national budget to advance science and technology," Mutharika said.

He said countries like India, Singapore and Taiwan had advanced because of their investments in science and technology.

Meanwhile the president of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, warned that without proper commitment from African leaders, it will be impossible to carry through the proposals agreed at the African Union summit.
"Science and technology development is vital for the establishment of thriving industries so that the continent will be able to process it own materials," he told journalists yesterday.

Read more about the AU summit in SciDev.Net's dedicated news focus.