Issues in STI and higher education in Tanzania
Tanzania has enjoyed fairly steady macro-economic growth in the past five years at an average rate of 6% and is planning to increase this rate to about 8% between 2011 and 2013. The country’s economy is considered factor-driven.
As part of its strategy to increase national economic growth, Tanzania has indicated in the newly produced MKUKUTA II that it intends to utilize science, technology and innovation (STI) as tools to enhance the performance of its four main growth drivers: agriculture, manufacturing, mining and tourism.
Tanzanian businesses are mainly producers of raw materials, and the level of business sophistication is low. Agencies such as UNIDO and FAO work with the private sector, especially small and medium enterprises, to improve the performance of value-chains. However, a poor ability to add value lies in the dearth of skills and readiness to adopt technologies and hinders performance and the visibility of results in terms of new business and spin-offs. With the support of funds from Finland managed by the World Bank, the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) has recently started a Business Incubator for SMEs within the information and communication technology sector to try to improve their competitiveness. UNESCO’s expertise in science, technology and innovation (STI) is required to enhance skills for the development of technology-based SMEs.
Tanzania’s most recent science and technology policy was produced in 1996. A Master Plan of Action for implementing science, technology and innovation polices was prepared in 2006. Later in 2008, the science and technology policy was updated to an STI policy which is yet to receive Cabinet approval. Several sectoral policies have also been developed to assist the country in defining its objectives in the application of STI for national development. Indeed, STI policy and the needs of the economy should be closely linked to be supported by political leaders.
Governance of the national innovation system is still weak, and it is not contributing significantly to economic development. Weak linkages between the education and research institutions and the private sector, coupled with the inability of the agencies involved to commercialize their research and development (R&D) and innovate products, mean that Tanzania continues to spend funds for research that does not provide any immediate valuable outcomes to its citizens.
The Review and Evaluation of the Performance of Tanzania’s Higher Education Institutions in STI published by UNESCO in June 2011 states that quality higher education and training will be crucial to move up the value chain beyond simple production processes and products. The report observes that, although policy instruments exist, at the institutional level, there is little recognition of the importance of research and a marked resistance to change. This spawns discrimination against the small pool of active researchers, or at best a lack of incentives. This weak relationship between research and postgraduate studies affects the credibility of universities in the eyes of external academic bodies and development agents, To compound matters, there is no any institutional or national mechanism for assessing research performance.
The report also pinpoints ‘limited efforts in attracting the private sector, individuals, business people, trade unions and community organizations into contributing significantly to the national STI effort by the way of funding or shared sponsorship of research programmes.’ As a consequence, research tends to be lacking in quality and relevance. This in turn discourages policy-makers and the private sector from using local research outputs and prompts them to seek research findings from abroad.’
UNESCO evaluations published in 2011:
- A needs assessment study of Tanzania science education
- Review and Evaluation of the Performance of Tanzania’s Higher Education Institutions in Science, Technology and Innovation
- Research– policy linkages of science-related ministries and their research organizations
- Biotechnology and bioentrepreneurship in Tanzania
- Assessment of women scientists’ participation in science, engineering and technological industries in Tanzania
For details, contact the UNESCO office in Dar es Salaam
Source: UNESCO Country Planning Document for Tanzania (2011–2015)