UNESCO has just published the second volume in its series of country profiles in science, technology and innovation policy. Entitled "Mapping Research and Innovation in the Republic of Zimbabwe", the study places science, technology and innovation in Zimbabwe in their historical context and analyses current trends in research and development in terms of expenditure, personnel and scientific productivity. It also inventories Zimbabwe’s relevant institutions, legal framework and operational policy instruments, and analyses the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats which characterize Zimbabwe’s national innovation system.
The study recalls that Zimbabwe founded its first research facilities more than a century ago. It has relatively well-developed national infrastructure and a long-standing tradition of promoting research and development (R&D), as evidenced by the levy imposed on tobacco-growers since the 1930s to promote market research.
The country also has a well-developed education system, with one in eleven adults holding a tertiary degree. Given the country’s knowledge base and abundant natural resources, Zimbabwe has the potential to figure among the countries leading growth in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020.
To do so, however, Zimbabwe will need to correct a number of structural weaknesses. For instance, it currently lacks the critical mass of researchers needed to trigger innovation. Although the infrastructure is in place to harness R&D to Zimbabwe’s socio-economic development, universities and research institutions lack the requisite financial and human resources to conduct R&D and the current regulatory environment hampers the transfer of new technologies to the business sector. Nor does the current development agenda to 2018 contain any specific targets for increasing the number of scientists and engineers, or the staffing requirements for industry and other productive sectors. To compound matters, the lack of co-ordination and coherence among governance structures has led to a multiplication of research priorities and poor implementation of existing policies.
The Government of Zimbabwe is well aware that it will be unable to redress the economy and durably improve the population’s living standards, unless it manages to correct these structural weaknesses. In 2013, it appealed for UNESCO’s assistance in preparing an evidence-based policy analysis of its particular situation. The present profile of science, technology and innovation in Zimbabwe has been produced within UNESCO’s Global Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Instruments (GO->SPIN), a relatively new UNESCO initiative which stresses the importance of having a wide range of policy instruments to ensure effective policy implementation. GO->SPIN is applying a new methodology to mapping research and innovation at country level, in order to inform the reform process and improve monitoring of national innovation systems.
UNESCO has been accompanying Zimbabwe in reviewing its national innovation system since 2008, through the Spanish Fiduciary Fund allocated to the project for Capacity Building in STI Policy in Africa. During the first stage, UNESCO established a contract with the Zimbabwean Academy of Sciences for the preparation of a status report, which was completed by a team led by Christopher Chetsanga in October 2009.
The revised policy, entitled Second Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, was launched in Harare on 13 June 2012, in the presence of the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, H.E. Robert G. Mugabe, the Minister of Science and Technology Development, the Hon. Heneri A. M. Dzinotyiweyi, the Prime Minister, the Hon. Morgan R. Tsvangirayi, and UNESCO Science Specialist Guy Broucke (photo).
The first volume in the GO->SPIN series is devoted to Botswana and was published in November 2013. The third volume focuses on Malawi and is due for release in September 2014.