Botswana’s economic diversification could be propelled if players in the tertiary institutions and other relevant agencies actively engage in research and innovation, a cabinet minister has disclosed.
Speaking at the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) annual career guidance and fair earlier in the week, tertiary education, research, science and technology minister, Dr Alfred Madigele pointed out that, ‘it is mainly through innovation and research that new areas of economic growth are identified, exposed and brought to the fore’.
He commended HRDC, which is headed by Dr Raphael Dingalo, for having found it fit hold the fair under the theme ‘Career guidance: Gateway towards diversifying Botswana’s economy’. According to Madigele, who before joining cabinet was a businessman in the medical field, innovation is by and large a product of research which leads to invention of new products that add value to the economy.
“Innovation engenders prosperity, economic growth and new jobs, leading to the absorption of unemployed into the labour market thus making them productive and contributing towards the cycle of building and strengthening the economy,” noted the minister.
He urged research institutions and the industry to work together in supporting and undertaking research and internship initiatives. “I would like to reiterate that industry linked research is one of the elements that contribute to the diversification of the economy by generating new ideas which are invented to create services and products,” he stressed. Industry-based internships for undergraduates are important. Once innovation and research are up-scaled, there will be more employment away from the mining sector, in a way diversifying the economy. Botswana is dependent on the volatile mining sector for growth. The private sector is supposed to take lead while government provides a conducive environment for business.
Launching the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) Innovation Fund towards the end of last year, Madigele said that ‘Government is spearheading the drive to use innovation as a trajectory for economic growth. To this end, the establishment of the fund would assist to close a gap in early stage financing for key projects of national importance’.
The Fund assists young innovators with up to P2 million on their innovative ideas which can be commercialised. Meanwhile, Dingalo told the opening ceremony of HRDC fair and career guidance that, as the coordinating agency of the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) they are responsible for ensuring that in line with the strategy, Botswana develops relevant human resource base which enables the country to successfully transform into a knowledge based economy.
BIH Chief Executive has in the past stated that interest in innovation was still low but expressed hope that the situation would improve. “The level of interest in innovation in Botswana is relatively low compared to countries like Kenya where we already see practical examples of individuals making a living out of innovation based entrepreneurship”.