Making Science, Technology and Innovation fashionable to young people

SANBio Communications Practitioner, Mehlolo Maphanga talking to learner at National Sciene Technology and Innovation Week in Palapye, Botswana

Africa is faced by many challenges, including economic and social, thus making science, technology and innovation key to addressing these challenges. Many African countries appropriate less than 1% of GDP for research and development. In 2007, the AU Heads of State and Government called for all Member States to allocate at least 1% of GDP to support research and development by 2010. To date, this target has not been reached.

In general, globally the engagement of children and young people in science and innovation aims at deepening their understanding of the role of Science, Technology and Innovation in society. SADC Member States should therefore be commended for launching the Science Technology and Innovation Week initiative in 2008.

Hon. Nonofo Molefi, Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, at the SANBio stand during Science, Technology and Innovation Week

The Science, Technology and Innovation Week is being commemorated as part of a series of activities taking place during the “Science and Innovation Month” in Botswana. The Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology designated in 2015 that Science and Innovation Month be commemorated annually in August.

During the week, on August 15th 2016, Hon. Nonofo Molefi, Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, officially unveiled two projects: the radio-telescopes secured and installed through the Newton Fund, and the EUMETCast Receiving Station (Rx) procured and installed through Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA).

“The unveiling of the two projects seeks to promote partnerships and networking which are of paramount importance in achieving the mandate of the University and are in alignment with the national agenda. The unveiling of these projects also seeks to create awareness on the road map and achievements of the university to-date,” said Minister Molefi.

“I came to the National Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Week to interact with scientist and learn about the science they do and also to more about career and opportunities related to science technology, engineering and mathematics,” said a grade 12 learner Ronald Sepopa from Lotsane Senior Secondary School.  

Botswana has in recent years been establishing structures and instruments for promotion and support of research, science, technology and innovation. The Botswana Innovation Hub provides innovation support programmes essential for nurturing the early stages of start-ups and central for creating a conducive environment that attracts innovative companies and institutions to its Science and Technology Park. In this regard, a National Technology Transfer Office has been established and is responsible for the identification and commercialization of intellectual property arising from research, innovations, indigenous knowledge and technology development.

As a further example of these steps, the First Steps Venture Centre has been established – a technology entrepreneurship development programme of the Botswana Innovation Hub – that provides start-up companies with business mentorship and market access opportunities. Thus far the company has proven instrumental in assisting start-ups to commercialise their innovations.

NEPAD-SANBio believes that the involvement of younger generation during science, technology and innovation (STI) Weeks is paramount for the development of a knowledge economy and creating a sustainable future for Southern Africa.