Botswana Launches The Botswana Academy of Sciences
As the world commemorated the World Science Day for Peace and Development earlier this week, Botswana used the opportunity to launch the Botswana Academy of Sciences. The think tank which was launched by the Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Hon. Nonofo Molefhi at Mmokolodi Nature Reserve on Tuesday 10th November, 2015 will advise government on science, technology and innovation related matters.
Launching the academy Hon. Molefhi said, “Science issues tend to be complex, trends or developments in science and technology happen at a very fast pace. However, the legislative needs to translate this scientific knowledge into political choices, there is need for dialogue on many scientific fronts – as science can either be a tool or security threat, if not legislated properly.”
The founding chairperson of the academy, Professor Motsoptse Modisi said the establishment of the academy was a significant milestone in the construction and consumption of new ideas that illuminate the world around us. He said the launch of the academy was a celebration of the intellectual and practical activity that encompasses the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
The guest speaker at the launch was the president of the Academy of Science of South Africa, Professor Daya Reddy who shared his country’s experience in putting together a body of experts to advice government on science, technology and innovation matters. He said the Academy of Science of South Africa was inaugurated in 1996 by the former President Nelson Mandela who was also its patron until he passed on.
“The academy was formed in response to the need for an academy of science congruent with the dawn of democracy in South Africa – activist in its mission of using science for the benefit of society,” he said. He went on to say that evidence-based study project activities form the core of the academy’s function and are a key area of future development.
The launch of the Botswana Academy of Sciences was the culmination of the commemoration of the World Science Day for Peace and Development. The day is a UNESCO initiative that was established in 2001 to demystify the sometimes complex nature of science, technology and innovation by presenting, “the broader public with an opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of science in their daily lives and a platform to engage them in debates on science related issues.”
The day is celebrated annually on the 10th of November and this year’s theme was, “Science for a Sustainable Future: Celebrating the UNESCO Science Report,” in recognition of the release of the 2015 edition of the report. Major activities and academic presentations of the day discouraged the use of science and technology for destruction of life such as the design and manufacture of weapons of war and other dangerous machinery and substances.
UNESCO recognizes that science, technology and innovation is essential for economic development and social progress. However, the awareness in science and technology is very low in developing countries making the importance of technology and innovation for catch up socio-economic growth and competitiveness essential for developing countries.
Speaking on occasion of the commemoration, director in the Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology, Tshepo Kebakile said, “The main purpose of the World Science Day for Peace and Development was to emphasise the role science and technology play in helping improve the lives of people.” She said the aim of the commemoration is to ensure that citizens are kept informed of the development in science, while underscoring the role scientists play in broadening peoples understanding of their world knowledge economy as well as making societies sustainable.
It is widely recognized that access to new and appropriate knowledge and technologies promote steady improvements in living conditions, which can be lifesaving for the most vulnerable populations, and drive productivity gains which ensure rising income. Botswana has set up structural and strategic frameworks that build and support national capacity for research science, technology and innovation. This is demonstrated by the numerous institutions that have been established and the various policies that have been developed to aide sector development.
In the aftermath of the Global Financial and Economic Crisis of 2008/09, and the declining allure of the country’s chief export mineral, diamonds, Botswana has been under mounting pressure to build innovation capacity that creates a vibrant science, technology and innovation ecosystem in an effort to diversify the economy, create jobs, and move the country towards a knowledge-based economy.
Botswana has set up structural and strategic frameworks that support research science, technology and innovation. Among the game-changing institutions that emerged out of this initiative has been Botswana Innovation Hub, Botswana Institute of Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) and Botswana International University of Science & Technology (BIUST). These recently established entities add to the already existing University of Botswana (UB) and the soon to be University Botswana Collage of Agriculture (BCA).
To provide leadership in science, technology and innovation, the country had earlier on established a dedicated Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology and in 2004 established the Department of Research Science and Technology (DRST) to provide an enabling policy and legislation environment and coordination of science, technology and innovation activities.
Following on the Botswana National Research Science and Technology Plan of 2005, the country recently re-established the Research, Science and Technology subsector within the High-Level Consultative Committee (HLCC). HLCC comprises policy making officials from government and captains of industry representing the private sector. The council seeks, “To consider and to resolve a wide range of issues which constrain the performance of the economy,” and the restoration of the HLCC’s Research, Science and Technology subsector gives issues related to research, science, technology and innovation the attention they deserve.
In the reverberation of the Global Financial and Economic Crisis, the country developed the Botswana Revised Research Science, Technology and Innovation Policy of 2011. The policy calls for, “A systemic approach to research science, technology and innovation with clear vision, programmes, incentives, measures, roles, targets and monitoring indicators.”
The policy’s implementation plan advocates for the establishment of mechanisms and structures to coordinate linkages across sectors, set priorities and allocate funding for the policy as well as guidelines for specific programmes that can be adopted.
Cluster Development Director at Botswana Innovation Hub Dr Budzanani Tacheba believes that beyond advising government, the newly established academy of sciences will place impetus in recognizing scientists well beyond their academic acumen through key contributions to society and their own communities using science. “The fellows of the academy shall also collectively help further development of relevant science, technology and innovation policy documents to advise government through advisory bodies. As an advocacy body the fellows of the academy will have a new platform to openly critique science technology and innovation practices outside their work institutions,” he said.
PR and Communications Manager