Zimbabwe’s minister for science and technology development Heneri Dzinotyiweyi wants Africa’s scientists to adopt a new mantra of commercialisation of their research — indeed, devote about 20 per cent of their science efforts in commercialising and ploughing back the returns into research and development. This was his message at the ministerial round-table on India-Africa science collaboration on Tuesday (19 October).
For so long the buzzword at both national and international fora has been ‘capacity building’ on the continent. Which is all very well, Dzinotyiweyi, a TWAS fellow and former mathematics professor at the University of Zimbabwe, told me and Danny Schaffer from TWAS last night. But by now African scientists have some degree of ‘capacity’ in some science sectors at least, both within the country and among its diaspora. “What is missing is that we do not see significant transformation of our economy despite this capacity building in science”, he said.
“We are now in an era where we should seek to get immediate benefits, especially market benefits [of research],” he added.
Dzinotyiweyi also suggests a reverse thinking on science investment and national wealth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP). Policymakers are used to thinking in terms of percentage of GDP devoted to investment in science. “If we seriously address commercialisation of science and technology, we can tell on a year-to-year basis how much [a nation’s] GDP has grown due to commercialisation of S and T.”
Dzinotyiweyi uses diamonds as an example. There is nothing so complex about diamond processing techniques that African scientists cannot master and emerge as major players in the international markets, he said.
So far so good. But as India’s experience — a rise in GDP but fall in global hunger index — shows, developing countries still need to go a long way to ensure a more sustainable development that ensures a more equitable distribution of economic gains.
T V Padma, South Asia Regional Coordinator, SciDev.Net