The NEPAD-SANBio visited Swaziland on 18-19 January 2016 to present the SANBio Business Plan 2013-18, introduce the BioFISA II programme and learn about Biosciences in Swaziland. During the visit the delegation met with the Mushroom Development Unit under the Ministry of Agriculture at the Malkerns Research Station, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, the University of Swaziland and the Royal Science and Technology Park. The visit to Swaziland was concluded with a discussion with the Director of Science and Technology at the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology.
The Kingdom of Swaziland, just like many other developing countries, continues to face the socio-economic challenges of the 21st century. The government is, however, convinced that by applying science and technology to industrial development stimulus can be provided for wealth creation through the provision of cost-effective solutions for knowledge-based enterprises. Towards this end, the Government has started the development of a Biotechnology Park as a part of the Royal Science and Technology Park project that can elevate the country’s capabilities in research and development of new agricultural products, food processing, cosmetic and medicinal products as well as biofuels, backed by the region’s abundance in indigenous plant resources and agricultural backdrop.
While the Biotechnology Park is still very much under construction – the vast area reserved for the park in Nokwane is already paved with roads lined by traffic lights and the platforms allocated for buildings are clearly visible – the plans the team was shown were impressive: the park will contain an industrial area (including pharmaceutical, biotechnology and innovation zones), a residential area, a service center, a cultural village, R&D facilities as well as parks. The park is planned to be completed by 2020 and fully operational by 2022. Significant interest in the park has already been expressed by several large pharmaceutical companies, which should bode well for the project’s success. Once the project is complete, the results should speak for themselves, and SANBio is looking forward to seeing the vision come true.
Through the Mushroom Development Unit, Swaziland already benefited from the BioFISA I Programme, when hundreds of farmers were trained in mushroom production and a regional genebank of mushrooms was established. The project involved Malawi, Swaziland and was coordinated by the SANBio Mushroom Node in Namibia. Activities that were conducted included awareness programmes, training workshops, spawn centres, as well as research. Gene bank germplasm exchange was also planned and implemented to a limited extent.
The Under Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Emmanuel Mbingo, said the meeting with SANBio at the Ministry of Agriculture gave much food for thought and regretted the minister and others could not attend the meeting; he said that they would surely have been inspired.
Finally, at the University of Swaziland, the team presented to the participants the opportunities NEPAD-SANBio and BioFISA II have to offer. The team encouraged researchers and institutions to draft several proposals for any NEPAD-SANBio/BioFISA II calls as through the training provided to those shortlisted, it is not a wasted effort even if the projects are not funded eventually funded under BioFISA II as the same development-oriented proposals can be marketed to other funders.
The visit to Swaziland was concluded after a meeting at the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology. The SANBio team was inspired by the gusto demonstrated by the Biotechnology Park and looks forward to more participation from Swaziland in regional projects.