Catching up with Tanzania

I take every opportunity to catch up with Tanzanian science policymakers, and I had the opportunity to do so at lunchtime today, so pardon me while I veer a little off message.

In July this year, Tanzania unveiled a national budget that gave an unprecedented boost for science. The country’s Council for Science and Technology (COSTECH) had its budget increased thirty-fold to 30bn Tanzanian shilling (20m USD). More here on that.

This is, of course, good news for Tanzanian science. But the work has only started for COSTECH, which is moving from being pretty small fry to managing large science funding programmes. How they deal with this will provide valuable lessons for other African governments wanting to do the same.

At lunch I spoke to Evelyne Mbede, director of science and technology at the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology in Tanzania, about how COSTECH is coping. She informed me that the challenge is even bigger than I knew. The idea is that international donors, whose contribution to Tanzanian science outstrips even the new government funding levels, will also pool their funding in COSTECH so it can be coordinated by Tanzanians. As a result, COSTECH will spend a significant chunk of the first 4bn T.Sh. tranche it has received from government to expand its administrative capabilities.

COSTECH is also starting to prepare for the 2011 budget next month. The last budget propelled the country’s R&D budget from 0.028% of GDP to 0.1% of GDP. The goal of 1% is still far away, so next year’s budget should give us some idea of the depth of Tanzania’s commitment to S&T.

Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net columnist

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