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Fostering SADC development through science and technology

ONE of the visions of Southern African Development Community (SADC) is to develop a region where science and technology drive sustainable social and economic development, alleviate poverty, diseases, and reinforce the creation employment opportunities.

Science and technology, as a cross-cutting theme in the region, can be used to develop and strengthen national systems of innovation, in order to drive sustained socio-economic development and the rapid achievement of the goals of the SADC common agenda including poverty reduction and eradication. The 16 member states of SADC are: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, DR-Congo, eSwatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“We (as a member of SADC) are focused on ensuring science and technology are used to bring about sustainable development in our country, since they are the key for sustainable industrial development,” the Director General (DG) of Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), Dr Amos Nungu, explained.

According to him, science activities funded by the government of Tanzania in the country are governed by the commission, and its duties include administration of research grants, maintenance of research registry and science information services, setting research policy, and creating incentives for invention and innovation. Dr Nungu further noted that Tanzania through COSTECH has collaborated with other Southern African countries in implementing science, technology and innovation programmes and research projects.

He cited some of the programmes as the Southern Africa Innovation Support programme (SAIS) and 15 Science granting councils (SGC) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its main aim is to share science knowledge to achieve sustainable industrial development within the countries. SAIS is supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Finland, in partnership with ministries responsible for Science, Technology and Innovation of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia as well as SADC Secretariat.

Through this programme, the commission has focused on achieving national industrialization agenda. The other objective of the programme is to support early-stage entrepreneurship and increase understanding on what works in innovation ecosystems and assisting entrepreneurs in the SADC region. As a member of the inter-government development community, Tanzania through COSTECH has played a significant role in ensuring science and technology become the vision of SADC and is implemented for the sustainability of social and economic development of the region.

This year, the SADC Summit runs under the theme “Competitive Business Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development.” The previous five summits have focused on industrialization -- making it the first time in the 39-year history of SADC that a similar theme has ran for so many years. According to Dr Nungu, for sustainable industrial development to be achieved, science and technology are key drivers of socio-economic development. Technological innovation is a key factor in the development and Competitiveness of regional economies, which leads to wealth creation and the improvement of living standards.

Through the Science Technology and Innovation Desk within the SADC Secretariat, the block pursues goals and objectives of the region for science, technology and innovation as indicated in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development (RISDP). The unit is instrumental in co-coordinating the relevant activities. Most prominently, SADC strives to use science and technology as a means of poverty reduction, with the ultimate aim of poverty eradication in the region. Science, Technology and Innovation within SADC are driven by the Social and Human Development and Special Programmes Directorate.

Dr Nungu explained further that COSTECH is a member of Science Granting Councils (SGC) in Sub-Saharan Africa, which plays a critical role in supporting consolidation of countries’ national systems of innovation, and are central to funding and catalysing research and innovation.

The DG expounded that the objectives of being the member of SGC is to have more effective research management practices among science granting councils, increase the use of STI indicators to design and monitor research programmes and to increased knowledge transfer to the private sector. Dr Nungu pointed out that the Commission is responsible for managing, promoting and coordinating scientific research, technological development, and technology transfer in the country. It also deals with dissemination of scientific and technological information in ensuring science and technology are used to drive the industrialization agenda.

The aim is to strengthen the capacities of science councils, “in order to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development committed to improving their internal research management processes and which have developed concrete plans to do so”.

The Commission has collaborate with other Southern Africa countries in the implementation of SAIS with the aim of improving cooperation amongst innovators in the Southern Africa region by strengthening existing innovation systems and platforms. The overall objective of SAIS 2 is thus, Enhanced Regional Innovation Cooperation and National Innovation Systems Contributing to Inclusive Business and Employment.

The focus of the second phase of SAIS (SAIS 2) which implements the 2017-2021 Innovation Fund is to demonstrate the feasibility of existing concept and/or prototype (proof-of-concept) before rolling them to the market. SAIS 2 funding is also available for projects looking to replicate an already established innovation within the SADC region. The initiatives supported by the SAIS 2 Innovation Fund will be aligned with national policies and promotion of regional integration as outlined in SADC strategies industrialisation, innovation and youth empowerment.

The last time that Tanzania hosted a SADC Summit was in 2003, and the country is determined to once again take leadership in advancing regional integration when it assumes the chair of SADC in this summit. President John Magufuli of Tanzania, who is currently the deputy chairperson of SADC, will take over the rotating leadership of the regional organization from his Namibian counterpart, Dr Hage Geingob, at the 39thSummit. SADC is an inter-governmental organization headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana.

Its goal is to further socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among 16 Southern African States. 

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Author: FATMA ABDU, DAR ES SALAAM

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