Victoria Falls — Government has identified science and technology as key to economic development. Officially opening the 6th International Conference of the Africa Materials Research Society (AMRS) in Victoria Falls yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister, Arthur Mutambara said Zimbabwe was endowed with vast natural resources but was failing to benefit from them due to lack of science and technology.
He noted that the country had several minerals, which were being exported raw but could fetch more profits if marketed as finished products. “We must put in place a policy framework that allows material science to be used to add value.
“Material science allows the processing of gold, platinum and diamond locally to maximise profits on the international market,” he said.
DPM Mutambara said Zimbabwe was losing out on the platinum group of minerals, which were accruing large benefits for the processing companies.
“We should embark on a journey of value addition to our raw materials and our science students locally and those abroad should be the drivers of this initiative, which will see the capacitation of profits from our resources,” he said.
He said Zimbabwe should have an adaptive ecosystem approach which encompass country competitiveness and economic growth as major drivers of development.
“Country competitiveness means improving Government and business performance and efficiency.
“We would want a situation where science and technology is used as a solution provider to challenges being faced by the country,” he said.
Speaking at the same function, chairman of the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education, Professor Christopher Chetsanga encouraged Government to lay out appropriate policy framework to facilitate value addition of local resources.
“We are one of the major tobacco producers globally but only 10 percent of it is processed locally while 90 percent is exported as raw.
“We have opportunities to add value through oil seed processing, cotton ginning, spinning and weaving, leather tanning and furniture manufacturing, diamond cutting and polishing and iron and steel processing and get more value from the sale of finished products,” he said.
Prof Chetsanga said Africa was behind in terms of science and technology and is presently in the state where Europe was in the 19th century.
“There have been no industrial development in Africa since the early 1960s resulting in low revenue base and unemployment rate of between 60 to 80 percent, poverty and low standards of living,” he said.
Prof Chetsanga said there was lack of Government strategic provisions for developing capacity for economic development.
“There is a very small number of science and technology experts capable of competing with leading global counterparts,” he said.
Prof Chetsanga said Africa had 15 percent of the world’s population but contributed 2 percent to the world economy.
The weeklong AMRS is being held in Zimbabwe for the first time and more than 300 delegates who includes top scientists in the world are attending the conference. Students from different local, regional and international colleges are also attending.
The Secretary for Science and Technology Professor Francis Gudyanga said the conference held under the theme “Advancing Africa through value addition to materials” was a great chance for Zimbabwe to find solutions to some of its problems.
“This is a great opportunity for Zimbabwe to host a world class scientists and hopefully the conference will help the country come up with solutions to different challenges faced by the nation,’ he said.
Source: All Affrica.Com – 12 Dec 2011