Botswana spends less than 0.5 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research, way lower than what innovative nations do, as they spend between 4 to 5 percent of their GDP on research.
This was revealed by Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Otlogetswe Totolo at a recent Media tour of the University’s facilities in Palapye.
The Professor, who passionately believes research has the potential to turn Botswana into a knowledge-based economy, was fielding questions about the cost of research and the impact it has on innovation and economic diversification.
“The innovative ideas generated at this university are not for the school, these ideas need young energetic people with the zeal to run with them,” he said.
Totolo also highlighted that in order to achieve economic diversification; the nation has to start spending more on research and making products locally.
Totolo said innovation and manufacturing will produce products that will eventually be exported to other African nations and to further regions.
He also said the nation needs to move away from being a consumer nation to a producing nation, adding that research was the gateway to achieving such.
He said the products innovated by the lecturers and students at BIUST were for the nation to take up and make industries that will absorb the thousands of qualified unemployed people, especially the youth.
He said although the university has programmes in place to promote science and technology amongst young learners in primary and secondary school such as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) festival, there was still a large margin of 61 male learners to 47 female learners enrolling into the university.
The professor also noted that these numbers are in spite of a large number of women in the country.
“These figures also reflect what is going on around the world, young men tend to levitate towards engineering and the sciences while the female numbers tend to be generally lower,” he said, adding that the situation could get turned around and the figures brought closer together.
Reiterating the Vice Chancellors contention on the issue of research, BIUST Acting Vice Chancellor- Academic Affairs, Professor Elisha Shemang said there was no way of getting external funds for research on local products without any strings attached.
Shemang said the only way the country can have independent research that is wholly for the benefit of Batswana is if the government increases the funds they allocate for research.
“If we want to be competitive, our research needs to be 100 percent ours because innovation is a competition and no country will fund a competitor to beat them in the long run,” said Shemang.