There is a sizeable delegation of South Africans attending this meeting, led by Dr Phil Mjwara, director-general of the Department of Science and Technology.
South Africa has a more developed innovation policy than most African countries, but even it has problems. The uptake on the R&D tax credits introduced in 2008 have been less than hoped, and the DST still struggles to elicit high-quality applications for its innovation support schemes. It is currently undertaking a wholesale re-organisation of its innovation support, placing it all under a newly created Technology Innovation Agency.
Yet, South Africa has a lot of lessons to teach a country like Uganda, and that is why it has been invited to come here – to share its experiences in supporting science and innovation.
Much of the discussion this afternoon has focused on shortcomings of the Ugandan science and innovation system: funding shortfalls, poor intellectual property protection and low take-up of science subjects at school and university level.
But when I spoke to Phil Mjwara over coffee this afternoon, he told me that he thought Ugandan scientists were selling themselves a little short. The challenges are not so different in South Africa, Mjwara said. But among other things, South Africa’s science officials are more skilled at publicising their successes to policymakers. This is something Ugandans must cultivate in order to nurthure their support, he said. “When we have achieved something, we shout about it.”
Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net columnist