Namibia: Research crucial for national development

Itah Kandjii-Murangi
The Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi

The Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi, says special attention must be given to human development and the promotion of broader public participation in decision-making in science, technology and innovation-related issues, in particular promoting the participation of vulnerable groups, such as women, youth and the disabled.

“As a country, we take science, technology and innovation seriously, because we believe they are strategic for national development and in particular for the attainment of our national development aspirations as spelled out in Vision 2030 and NDP4,” she noted.

Kandjii-Murangi, who was speaking last week during the launch of the Research and Experimental Development (R&D) Census for the 2013/14 fiscal year and the Innovation Census for 2012/13 and 2013/14, emphasised that science, technology and innovation (STI) can only yield inclusive and sustainable development if the development goals are people-centred and if enabling environments are created to harness these disciplines for national development and poverty alleviation.

This, she says, implies that Namibia has to develop, implement and monitor national and regional STI policies and programmes that promote knowledge production, dissemination and utilisation, as well as the development and appropriation of technologies that spur innovation. “This would require us not only to focus on large production facilities, but also at grassroots level, involving small and medium enterprises as part of a broader development agenda,” the minister said.

In order to assess whether Namibia’s efforts are yielding the desired outcomes, she called for the establishment of systems that allow for reliable collection of STI indicators that would eventually inform policy and the necessary strategic interventions.

The National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) in collaboration with the Namibia Statistic Agency (NSA) and the University of Namibia (Unam) have joined hands to conduct a National Research and Development Census, as well as a National Innovation Census during the course of this year to establish core STI indicators.

This process would eventually lead to the publication on a regular basis of national reports on STI statistics. Further, she explained that the core indicators relate to components such as active human capital involvement in research and development, time dedicated to research and development activities, and the budget or investment for scientific research activities and the innovation component to effectively inform STI development in the country.

She expects that the planned research and development, and innovation census will produce indicators necessary to inform policy-makers of what policies and interventions need to be put into place to develop and grow the economy.

She also hopes that the planned census would indicate how much effort has or is being made in R&D, in order to inform and encourage organisations to improve their R&D management.

Moreover, Kandjii-Murangi says there is increasing recognition worldwide that STI are key to economic growth and sustainable development. She said the realisation of the objectives set out in NDP4 and in the National Programme on Research, Science, Technology and Innovation cannot be achieved by government alone – the private sectors and non-governmental organisations also have a pivotal role to play.

“It is only through our collective efforts that we will be able to up the pace of adoption of science, technology and innovation to underpin socioeconomic development in our country,” she said.

This would be Namibia’s first National Census on Research and Development, and Innovation. Hence, she called on all stakeholders in private sector enterprises, government departments, government-owned trading entities, and universities to cooperate with the enumerators and provide the information required.

The project received financial support from the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development – African Science, Technology and Innovation Initiative (NEPAD/ASTII).

The NCRST and NEPAD/ASTII, have conducted two training workshops for enumerators and stakeholders on measuring and conducting the Science, Technology and Innovation indicators at the South African Human Sciences Research Council’s Centre of Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators.