The University of Botswana, in collaboration with stakeholders that include the Ministry of Transport and Communications, on Thursday launched a centre whose mandate is to bridge the gap between global research aimed at improving transport networks and the implementation of these innovations on the ground.
The development comes at a time when the Botswana government has undertaken an aggressive P2.6 billion Integrated Transport Project that also involves capacity building, feasibility studies and infrastructure development. According to the Ministry of Works and Transport, there are currently 36,000 cars in Botswana and the rate of car ownership is rising at an annual rate of 9 percent.
The Botswana Technology Transfer (T2) centre was initially planned to be launched as far back as 2004 but due to an inability to source funding, the project has been put on hold until now; it is envisioned to be a repository of information for anybody with an involvement in the Botswana Transport industry.
Engineer Haggai Bishanga was the key note speaker at the event and shared his experiences serving as the Manager of the Tanzania Technology Transfer Centre, launched in 1997.
He emphasised that the centre needs to be owned, not by its host institution, but by the public and the private stakeholders who will benefit from its success; it is also important for the centre to be focused on addressing local problems.
Bishanga went on to warn that the experience in Tanzania was that many of the politicians who had been champions of the Technology Transfer Centre when it was first launched shied away from the project after some time.
The T2 unit is often unpopular with politicians because the work it produces is intangible as it is a knowledge-based institution. Therefore, it is crucial for the centre to monitor its own progress so that the people behind it can always be prepared to validate the continued existence of the project.
Over the past 26 years, at least 200 transport related technology transfer centres have been developed around the world; In Africa, the first was launched in South Africa in 1995.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Transport and Communications, Mr. Thapelo Leareng, Coordinator of the Transport Hub, reminded the audience that the World Health Organisation and the World Bank have challenged countries across the world to view congested traffic as a health problem and to tackle it as such. He pledged the support of the Ministry to this initiative which will be based at the University of Botswana under the Faculty of Engineering and Technology.