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[DODOMA] The government of Tanzania has pledged to increase its investment in research and development to one per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015.

The Tanzanian president, Benjamin Mkapa, made the announcement on 24 June at the official opening of the Tanzania Academy of Science, in Dodoma.

Currently, just 0.3 per cent of Tanzania's GDP is spent on research. Industrialised nations, however, spend up to ten times as much.

Mkapa said that Tanzania's steady economic growth — currently 6.5 per cent a year — meant it would be possible to meet the one per cent target over the next decade.

He pointed out that thousands of African scientists move to developed countries each year and that there are now more African scientists and engineers working in the United States than in the whole of Africa.

By directing more resources towards the education and welfare of scientists, Mkapa said the country hoped "to retain our scientists and hence turn the brain drain into a brain gain".

He added that instead of waiting for technology to come from abroad, Tanzanian needed to "nurture and maintain a critical mass of highly qualified and innovative scientists and technologists, and to equip them with the means to pursue their research objectives".

 Mkapa said rich countries that are pressing for greater market access in developing countries should share their scientific knowledge to level the playing field.

Without scientific knowledge, Africa will continue to remain dependant on aid, said the president, who is a member of the Commission for Africa set up by UK prime minister Tony Blair.

The commission's report, released in March, recommended strengthening Africa's science capacity as a way to accelerate the continent's development (see Science capacity 'imperative' for Africa's development).

The Tanzania Academy of Science was set up to promote the development of science in the country. Its 25 founding members are all senior professors.

Mkapa was granted honorary membership for his efforts to promote science in Tanzania.