Botswana learning from China’s innovation-driven economy – experts

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Inspired by China’s prioritization of research, Botswana experts say that the southern African country is taking a leaf out of China’s book of innovation.

As China worked to upgrade its economy, Professor David Norris, the vice chancellor at the University of Botswana (UB), said its innovative strengths have shaped China’s long-term economic competitiveness and prospects for global leadership.

“China’s economic transformation in the last 40 years was spearheaded by research and development and has had a huge impact on the global economy,” Norris said Wednesday at the commemorations of the International Teachers’ Day in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.

According to Norris, this unprecedented economic scenario has attracted a lot of interest, particularly from developing countries looking to emulate China’s success and Botswana is not an exception.

“One of our strategic goals is to become a research-intensive nation and an engaged country that actively responds to societal needs and challenges,” said Norris, suggesting that Botswana must introduce a culture of research and innovation to children at the elementary school level.

This is an ambitious task that Botswana is committed herself to, mindful of the fact that she bears the expectations of current and future generations that are constantly proving to be more techno-savvy and knowledge-driven, according to Norris.

According to Botswana’s Vision 2036 blueprint, the country is working toward being defined as a nation of critical thinkers, creators and innovators who are currently being empowered to embrace a new age where knowledge, not minerals, could now become the economic mainstay of Botswana.

Norris said one way of attaining a knowledge-based economy is to strengthen research and innovation by enhancing linkages with industry as well as forging collaborations and partnerships with different stakeholders across disciplines.

“Our new strategic plan underlines research and innovation as the bedrock of our overall mission to advance this country from a resource to a knowledge-based economy,” said Norris.

Botswana’s Minister of Education and Skills Development Douglas Letsholathebe said the UB has of late been signing a number of memoranda with different organizations and entities in order to deliver high-quality applied research and innovation.

Among the projects that the UB is working on, Letsholathebe said it is to establish an innovation hub where ideas can be explored to create knowledge that can be turned into tangible products and services for commercialization purposes.

Tebogo Motshegare, an economist in Botswana’s Ministry of Finance, said slowly but surely, Botswana is making strides in ensuring that funding is readily availed for researchers and innovators like China does.

“Almost 3 to 6 percent of China’s gross domestic product (GDP) is reserved for research and innovation. And Botswana must do the same in order to invest in key areas that drive innovation, such as research and development and the creation of new intellectual property,” she said. Enditem

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