UNESCO concerned about lack of investment in research

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Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek –Experts have expressed concern about the lack of political will and support towards development and promotion of research and innovation initiatives in Namibia.

Namibia spends a paltry 0.32% of its national budget on research and innovation development. This is despite that the country is a signatory to the African Union’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africain of 2014.

The country has further adopted the AU Africa Science Technology and Innovation Plan of Action, which prioritises science and technology to drive economic and social development across the continent.

During a two-day meeting on innovation that ended on Friday, experts stressed that there is no enabling policy and legal framework, no supportive policy institution, no political will and support, no funds and no systematic linkages that link the various components in the national innovation system.

Immolatrix Geingos, UNESCO Namibia’s Deputy Permanent Delegate, said despite the recognition of research and development as a catalyst for economic development, most countries, including Namibia, have not yet attained the level of investment required to make a significant impact.

According to UNESCO, the Namibian government plans to increase its investment in research and development from 0.32% to 1% by 2022.

Namibia is ranked number 93 out of 127 countries on the world innovation index. The country targets to be at position 80 by 2022, through its National Development Plan.

Geingos attributed the poor ranking to low investment in research and development, as both government and business have a limited number of knowledge experts and knowledge-intensive jobs, limited information communication services production for local consumption and limited creative outputs such as patents, trademarks, and other intellectual properties.

According to UNESCO, although Namibia has a comprehensive policy on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), it does not adequately cater for modern-day innovation- related IPR needs such as gene patenting due to the absence of an innovation policy.

Namibia does not have a National Bio-Ethics Policy, while, for instance, innovation related to artificial intelligence in the health practice underscores the significance of having such policies in order to deal with the related ethical concerns.

Namibia's Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, together with the Ministry of Health and Social Services, has started cooperating with UNESCO and WHO to review and strengthen the medical research ethics policy as well as the development of bioethical policy infrastructure.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, in cooperation with UNESCO, is developing the national human resources plan with clearly defined strategies to address the science, technology, engineering and Mathematics education challenges. 

Therefore, there is a need to establish platforms for collaborative research, innovation technology incubation centres and science parks to support clusters in priority areas such as water, energy.

Angelique Philander, the acting CEO of the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology, said the commission has partnered with 25 national and international organisations that are largely focused on joint funding of research and development projects.

This. she said, would spur innovation and lead to patents, products and services that transform the local economy from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.

However, Philander emphasised the significance of having a concrete science technology agenda with key focus areas that are articulated to scientists and researchers and formally funded by the government.

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