International Association of Science Parks (IASP) African Division President McLean Sibanda has recognised science parks as catalysts for development and contributes towards skills development, academic research and training graduates and entrepreneurs that can accelerate Africa’s productivity and economic growth.
Speaking at the IASP African Division conference organized Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), he said science parks are imperative to emerging economies as they foster local and regional socio-economic development and growth enabling increased participation in various sectors of science and technology on a global scale.
“As the African Division of the IASP, we recognize the proactive role that our governments are playing to create enabling environments for our youth to become part of Africa’s future and in particular the creation of sustainable local industries,” said Sibanda.
He stated it is worth noting that innovation requires investment, which at times competes for resources with the more pressing daily demands of the societies. He pointed out it is therefore the responsibility as instruments of change to demonstrate the transformative nature of science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in the societies.
Sibanda said blessed with an abundance of natural resources, Africa must transition to more value adding industries and participation in the knowledge economy. He added that for Africans to claim the rightful place in the global knowledge economy, a few fundamentals are important such as schooling systems still place a greater emphasis on employment as an end, with little emphasis on entrepreneurship.
“Secondly we need to adopt a broader definition to innovation, one that recognizes the fact that innovation permeates all aspects of society,” he said.
He also pointed out that the discourse about innovation is incomplete if it does not include entrepreneurship, intellectual property, appropriate funding instruments and enablers such as incubators, science parks and other areas of innovation. Sibanda added that there is need to build institutional arrangements to foster innovation and ensure holistic support to entrepreneurs as well as researchers working on cutting edge technologies and solutions as well as on frugal innovations that improve the quality of life of all the people.
Sibanda emphasized that Botswana is an affiliate member of the IASP which has over 388 members with a presence in 69 countries adding that through the Botswana Innovation Hub, it is also a member of the IASP African Division. He pointed out that hosting the conference in Gaborone means that the country’s progress of the park site will be visible to delegates as well as potential business opportunities.
“Botswana Innovation Hub is a strategic investment in the future growth of not only the Botswana economy but Africa at large,” he said.
Vice President Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe revealed that to date the government of Botswana has invested some P245 million in the development of primary infrastructure in a 57 hectare piece of land on a prime location which is strategically located along the airport road.
“The developments include internal road network; sewage and water reticulation; power supply as well as telecommunications network inside the park,” said Kedikilwe.
He added that a further investment in excess of P350 million will be made for the construction of BIH head quarters Icon Building whose construction has already started.
Kedikilwe pointed out that the building will not only house BIH head quarters, but will also provide accommodation to a number of other companies and institutions which may not necessarily want to construct their own facilities on the park.