Botswana awaits approval of new science policy

Research frequently remains in the lab Copyright: Flickr/Mike Blyth

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[GABORONE] Botswana hopes its research system will be better coordinated and funded through the establishment of two science and technology bodies to provide oversight of the country’s research and development (R&D).

The Botswana National Research, Development and Innovation Coordinating Council (BNRDCC), which will be chaired by the country’s science minister, will focus on funding strategies for adequate implementation of the country’s research, development and innovation agenda.

The existing Department of Research, Science and Technology, under the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science, and Technology, will be transformed into a directorate primarily responsible for the creation of policy and legislative that promotes participation in science and technology R&D. It will function as the executive arm of the BNRDCC, coordinating the implementation of national science, technology and innovation policy.

The new developments are outlined in Botswana’s revised science policy, which was approved by the cabinet in the middle of last year, presented before parliament late last year (21 November) and will be implemented as soon as parliament has given its formal approval, which is expected next month.

Currently, critics say that Botswana’s research system faces numerous constraints, including inadequate investment in research; fragmented, uncoordinated and untargeted research activities; lack of technology transfer and scarce human resources.  

"The government has been funding R&D, but in very small amounts, which have not been enough to provide for comprehensive research in the country," Carter Morupisi, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science, and Technology, told SciDev.Net.

He said that the government will now support the development of a strong, cohesive and well-coordinated national research system focusing on economic growth through the conversion of research results into products and services.

The government intends to partner with the private sector to invest at least two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in science and technology research and innovation by 2016. Botswana’s GDP is just over US$15 billion, according to 2010 statistics from the Bank of Botswana.

Keta Mosepele, a senior research fellow at the Okavango Research Institute, said: "We need these oversight bodies because … communities are not reaping the benefits from research work.

"We compete with other researchers from outside our country for this donor money. Now, with government funding research, things will improve."

Under the BNRDCC, a national research fund will be established, one of whose tasks will be to finance research relevant to the national priority areas.