Local think tanks and participants at The first Israel-Botswana Innovation Hub seminar have highlighted need to establish a full database of nationally impactful innovations with potential to create short and long term employment opportunities.
The workshop held at the University of Botswana conference centre was facilitated by Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) and hosted by the Ministry of Tertiary Education Research Science Technology. BIH is charged with the responsibility of driving the national innovation agenda. Notable amongst the participants was the Minister of Tertiary Education Research Science Technology Dr Alfred Madigela, Alan Boswaen the Chief Executive officer of BIH, non- resident Ambassador to Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Gershon Kedar, and a high ranking official Anya Eldan- the vice president of Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) who heeded the appeal by her counterparts to share experiences on innovation funding.
Others were academics from the local university and high ranking officials from different ministries. BIH is strengthening its ability to implement an innovation hub. The purpose of Botswana Innovation Hub Fund (BIHF) is to (a) promote innovation through technology, product and business development in the private sector by providing cash grants to companies and organisations registered with the Botswana Innovation Hub, and universities and research organisations inside or outside the Botswana Innovation Hub, to which companies and organisations registered with the Botswana Innovation Hub may subcontract part of the research and development work. It also encourages companies and organisations registered with the Botswana Innovation Hub to transfer skills to citizen employees by providing cash grants to be utilised for institutionalised training and, or approved on the job training programmes.
Among the key issues that stakeholders mentioned for the nation to realise its aspirations of innovation were that Botswana has opportunities within its youthful population-demographic distribution to grow entrepreneurship with a technology focus. There is need for more interactive sessions between Research Science Technology and Innovation (RSTI) stakeholders to strengthen the national system of Innovation.
It was observed that there is disconnection between Centres of Excellence in Botswana which when working closely together through collaboration can nurture innovation. Lessons from the past include the failed national projects which led to a number of alternative opportunities citing the case of the Hyundai plant that operated and created much needed artisan skills but later decommissioned, with the same resources finding opportunities in the auto industry and starting their own motor workshops.
Israel advised Botswana that it needs an independent funding authority such as NRF in South Africa or the Israel Innovation Authority but should not just “copy and paste as what is working for Israel and other countries may not necessarily work in Botswana”.