The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Technology (NM-AIST) has hosted a Forum whereby academic, research and development institutions, the private sector and NGOs can collaborate to solve community problems such as poverty. The importance of various institutions to pull together for development cannot be overemphasized.
The fact that the Forum is hosted by an institution of learning, it serves as a wake up call for educators in Tanzania to pull together in order to review the current education system to become appropriate for solving community problems.
As a matter of interest, staff and students from NM-AIST and Purdue University from USA represented academic institutions at the Forum. The General Manager of Tanzania Engineering and Manufacturing Design Organization (TEMDO) and staff from the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) represented research and development institutions. The General Manager of Diligent Tanzania ltd represented the private sector while staff from Green Hope, Women Development for Science and Technology (WODSTA) and Oikos represented not-for-profit organizations (NGOs). Members of the Forum are based in Arusha with the exception of the staff members from Purdue University who are from Indiana in USA.
The essence of the Forum is to explore mechanisms for establishing interdisciplinary teams between academic institutions, the private sector, government and non-government actors to contribute to community development. Why? Because participants at the Forum acknowledge that development problems are complex therefore they require interdisciplinary solutions and multidisciplinary teams to solve.
Those seeking collaborations abroad, like the staff from Purdue University, explain that many of the perceived national problems are actually international problems that require international solutions. Meanwhile, members at the Forum acknowledge the fact that local rather than international solutions solve local problems more effectively.
The Forum established that particularly academic institutions have not contributed to develop communities adequately. The evidence is that there are strong partnerships between academic and research institutions to further academic interests but there are limited efforts to ensure that the private sector and members of community access academic findings to improve livelihoods. Participants at the forum blame University and Research Institutions for conducting studies that are not accessible to communities. Findings often end in academic journals or shelves in libraries.
The Forum resolved that Research and Development institutions can reach the private sector through partnership arrangements. For example, participants at the Forum learned that TEMDO designs and manufactures machines for Diligent Tanzania ltd to process jatropha seeds in order to produce engine oils and energy producing products in the form of seed cake and charcoal from jatropha seed waste. Members at the Forum urged academic institutions to partner with non-state actors to reach particularly members of communities in rural areas effectively.
Clearly, presenters impressed particularly students from NM-AIST who participated in discussions at the Forum. The students urged stakeholders to make deliberate efforts to act and solve problems. They blamed the culture of talking as a major cause of underdevelopment and poverty in Tanzania.
Government and private sector partnership is another form of collaboration which serves as a driver for development in many countries. It is said that governments role in such partnership is to provide enabling environments for the private sector to operate smoothly and profitably. Many government officials in Tanzania are not fully capable of providing enabling environment for the private sector to excel. Many consider the private institutions to be rivals. The government of Malaysia used the term smart partnership to embrace the private sector in that country for development. Who can blame them?