UNESCO launches new series with a profile of R&D in Botswana

Honourable Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moito, UNESCO Director-General and ADG/SC at the launch on 14 November 2013, © UNESCO/F. Gentile

The first volume in UNESCO’s new online series of GO→SPIN Country Profiles in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy was launched on 14 November 2013 at UNESCO headquarters. It is dedicated to the research and innovation landscape of Botswana.

The study was launched at a side event of UNESCO’s General Conference that was inaugurated by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and moderated by Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Gretchen Kalonji. ‘All countries are seeking new sources of creativity and innovation, to craft policies that are inclusive, just and sustainable,’ observed the Director-General in her opening remarks.

The Director-General then welcomed the Minister of Education and Skills of Botswana, the Honourable Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.

The Minister thanked UNESCO for the fruitful collaboration on the study, which was financed by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID). The Honourable Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi recalled how, in her capacity as Minister of Communication, Science and Technology in 2008, she had requested UNESCO’s assistance in reviewing the country’s first Science and Technology Policy, dating from 1998. Accompanied by UNESCO, Botswana had published its updated National Policy on Research, Science and Technology in 2011, followed by the Implementation Plan a year later, within a project financed by AECID. Present at the launch, a smiling Vicente Mas Taladriz from AECID reaffirmed his government’s support for UNESCO.

The Minister then went on to highlight some of the challenges facing her country. She cited the need to improve both intellectual property protection and the commercialization of products derived from research and development (R&D). She also evoked the funding dilemma of a developing country like Botswana, where the decision to invest in R&D has to be weighed against the need, for example, to build a clinic for people afflicted with HIV and AIDS.

The Minister observed that Botswana had been fortunate. At the time of independence in 1966, it was one of the poorest countries in the world. A year later, diamonds were discovered and had since become a pillar of the economy.

Mapping Research and Innovation in the Republic of Botswana reveals that the country has one of the highest levels of income and scientific productivity per capita in sub-Saharan Africa. In an effort to reduce dependence on the mining sector, the government has made diversifying the economy a priority. Conscious that private-sector participation will be critical to the success of this strategy, the government has established the Botswana Innovation Hub.

UNESCO’s Global Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Instruments (GO→SPIN) was launched in 2012 by UNESCO’s Division of Science Policy and Capacity-building, via a series of workshops in Africa.

GO→SPIN is helping Member States to monitor and evaluate their performance in science, engineering, technology and innovation, via a standard methodology for analysing policies, legal frameworks, operational policy instruments and a series of indicators. The study includes different inventories of the various components of their national innovation system. This monitoring tool has been designed to help countries reform and upgrade their national science and innovation systems and governance. GO→SPIN should also offer a solid foundation for foresight studies in relevant areas.

For details, contact g.lemarchand(at)unesco.org; m.nalecz@unesco.org; sc.stp(at)unesco.org

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