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[DAR ES SALAAM] Tanzania's newly elected president, Jakaya Kikwete, has pledged to invest heavily in scientific training, research and development to overcome years of neglect for the field.

Kikwete told SciDev.Net on the eve of the election (13 December) that the US$600,000 research budget allocated to the Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology was "a joke".

He commented that the sum might only be enough to properly fund a single large research project.

Kikwete said he intended to invest heavily in agriculture and fisheries and promised to create one milllion new jobs overall in the two sectors. "I will make sure research and development is a top priority in agricultural development," he added.

He admitted that he thought this would be a challenge and that he might initially struggle to obtain results, "but I see agriculture as the right place to start," he said.

Kikwete added that his country had an urgent need for affordable technology to process its plentiful raw materials, ranging from cashew nuts to iron ore, instead of exporting them for processing elsewhere.

He praised the achievements of countries such as Malaysia, whose investments in research had brought significant economic returns.

Kikwete, who was sworn in on 21 December 2005 having received 80 per cent of the presidential vote, will be in office for the next five years. He could then run for election for a second five-year term.