Southern African Development Community (SADC) governments including of Botswana have been implored to double their efforts in funding innovation and research to unlock viable economic growth hence making SADC region to be a competitive market, say the field experts.
Local and international researchers and innovators made this known during the third edition of the annual Innovation Botswana conference hosted by the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) this week.
Anneline Morgan – Senior Officer, Science, Technology and Innovation at SADC Secretariat – urged government in the region to increase funding for innovation.
Morgan said despite repeated calls stimulated by the declarations and research outcomes, there is still low funding for research and development that can unlock innovation solutions.
She regretted that 1% of GDP or below is what the entire SADC region allocates for research development or innovation funding, adding that it is delays the region’s potential for growth.
“There is lot of untapped potential to unlock innovation ecosystems for the entrepreneurs. Innovation is the fuel that drives vision or creativity of economies as the world shifts to fourth industrial revolution. Governments should lead in procuring the innovative solutions,” she said.
Chairman of the South African Innovation Summit, Audrey Verhaeghe, said innovation builds the stronger economy that is not slave to economic fluctuations by depending on natural resources.
She advised that the innovation summits in the region should be used for gathering best innovators across the globe for discussions and therefore not executing proposed notes.
“Innovative creativity in providing solutions is not restricted to best practices; it is an overhaul to create new practices and is driven by zeal to offer the unthinkable to the world. It is high time we move from being rhetoric and taken action for us as the region to attain fully fleshed knowledge based economies, there is potential if innovation is prioritised,’’ said Verhaeghe.
Verhaeghe also emphasised a need for stronger collaboration between research and universities to assist in commercializing better the technologies of emerging innovators.
Tshepo Tsheko, the Director of Marketing and Partnerships at BIH, said their role is to assess the quality of innovation idea by looking into its market value proposition before it can be sold.
He said the government has been supportive towards funding innovation; hence pleading for the private sector to buy some innovative commodities made locally.
The Dar es Salaam Declaration that came out from the 4th Annual SADC Industrialisation week held on the 5-9 August 2019 observed that the investment in innovation still remains very low.
Moreover, it has been observed that intra-regional trade is relatively low in the region and the entire Africa due to lower industrialisation volume whose potential could be unlocked by innovation.
Notable challenges that impede industrialisation include weak project preparation, absence of project preparation funds as well as weak legal frameworks and lack of big regional innovation. Lead Expert of SAIS 2 Programme, Namibia Illary Patrick-Lindy, said the government of Finland is keen on supporting Botswana and entire SADC region in unleashing its innovation potential.