A group of researchers say Botswana must build a knowledge base of future and present disease threats as it is essential to development planning. Speaking on an online virtual panel to share strategies on how governments must move forward past Covid-19, the researchers said discounting the significance of research in development planning is the reason why Botswana is among African countries lagging behind in scientific findings.
While Botswana was one of the first countries in the region to provide universal free antiretroviral treatment to people living with HIV, research in the field of HIV and AIDS published between 2014 and 2019 shows that Botswana has not been building up a knowledge base in response to this disease. “The importance of carrying out research in Botswana instead of placing full confidence on other researchers and institutions in other regions is because it helps understand the local, social, economic and cultural factors where solutions cannot only be imitated from one country to the next,” says Health scientist and public health researcher, Taelo Morapedi.
Morapedi also told the panel that Botswana should build a knowledge base of future and present disease threats like what South Africa and Kenya are doing. “Good clinical research positions Botswana at the centre of research efforts into infectious diseases and reducing disease burden,” she retorts adding that “investing in research would build Botswana’s power to monitor, evaluate and respond to a wide range of public health issues.”Whilst there are disparities in research and development (R&D) in Southern Africa, the ratio of gross domestic expenditure on research and development to gross domestic product (GERD/GDP) shows that Botswana’s contribution is low at 0.26%. In Southern Africa, Lesotho had the lowest of 0.01% whilst the highest was Malawi with 1.06%.
While most Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states spend less than 10% of their GDP on health save for a few, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says prioritising health on the African continent has no direct relationship to a country’s wealth. The organisation also says numerous countries with high per capita income – such as Botswana, Seychelles, Mauritius, among others – do not systematically spend more of their budgets on health. On the other hand, lower income countries the likes of Gambia and Ethiopia spend more.Another panellist who is a researcher and psychotherapist Atang Abraham said Botswana must invest in research with a focus on improving the health outcomes not just for people with HIV but also other diseases. “Scaling up investment in health involves building knowledge base of other future and present disease threats such as Covid-19,” says Abraham.
Elsevier, a global information analytics business specialising in science and health, in their report titled HIV/AIDS research insights: impacts, trends, opportunities, highlighted that South Africa is at the forefront of research on the African continent. Elsevier also says the country’s immense contribution towards research efforts into infectious diseases has resulted in successful clinical trials which have led to the registration of over 30 medicines.