The challenges caused by climate change and variability in Botswana are just but one of the many factors that suggest that the time has come for Botswana to establish a National Research Council of Botswana. Botswana is this week attending the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The leaders of Botswana attending COP 27 have noted that Botswana is vulnerable to climate change and promised the world to do that which is necessary to address the challenges of climate change. Botswana’s vulnerability is exacerbated by the country’s high level of poverty and its dependence on key sectors most likely effected by climate change such as: agriculture, water, tourism, and health.
Future projections indicate that Botswana will experience a rise in temperature as well as the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme droughts and floods. These are likely to reduce crop yields and cause a loss in livestock, which will have important implications for food security and rural livelihoods. These challenges require trained scientists to investigate and make the necessary recommendations. This means that Botswana needs to consider the establishment of a National Research Council to handle all research issues in the country.
A National Research Council of Botswana (NRC) should be instituted by an Act of Parliament. Its mission should be to ensure the affordable and balanced provision of human resources and expertise in science, engineering, and technology through the support of research and education for economic growth and social advancement of the nation.
The NRC should provide support and grants for research, expertise development, education, training, cooperative research, bursaries, national and international scientific liaison. It should have and administers national research themes and facilities. If Botswana is to develop high quality research and innovation that can be transformed into tangible applications and products and provide research services and facilities that can support the needs of industry and society, it needs a national research council.
The NRC should have an independent Board of Directors and its major role should be to fund scientific research in three basic ways. Firstly, it should give research grants for collective work to research teams of well-recognized scientists of every discipline, including social sciences and the humanities. Secondly, it should have secretariat staff and whose payroll it manages. Thirdly, it should grant scholarships for doctoral and post-doctoral studies on specific national research themes of Botswana.
The NRC should form partnership with industry to take research impacts from research laboratories to the marketplace, where people can experience the benefits. This market-driven focus should deliver innovation faster, enhances people’s lives and addresses some of the world’s most pressing problems like climate change.
Botswana’s industry should invest in research & development (R&D) programmes that address critical issues for Botswana’s future. That is, Botswana’s scientists, engineers, and business experts should work closely with industry, helping industry to bring new technologies to market. We have the University of Botswana, Botswana International University of Science & Technology (BUIST) and Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) and many other research institutes and laboratories in the country which can significantly benefit from the establishment of the NRC of Botswana. Scientists and researchers in these institutions struggle to get research grants from outside organisations such as European Union, German Government funded SASSCAL, Canadian IDRC, African Academy of Science and many other organisations. The NRC of Botswana is therefore an overdue priority for research funding in Botswana.