Zimbabwe: Research Is Vital - RCZ

THE Research Council of Zimbabwe (RCZ) says there is need for increased engagement with the private sector in order to achieve the country's national research priorities.

The RCZ last week held a stakeholder consultation workshop in the capital where it presented a Result-based Management System Strategic Plan running from 2014 to 2016.

The government approved four thematic National Research Priorities (NRPs) in 2011 in recognition of the importance of research to socio-economic development, namely social sciences and humanities, sustainable environmental and resource management, health and national security.

RCZ board member, Cosmas Chigwamba told delegates that the plan should be aligned to the government's economic blueprint, Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-economic Transformation (ZimAsset), in order to have a unanimous plan period.

"We need a national research agenda. We need to push the issue of 1% of GDP [being dedicated towards research], this 1% is inadequate, we need to increase funding and partner with the private sector for them to understand the benefits of research for industry," Chigwamba said.

He said that the catalytic role of research was to achieve the goals of ZimAsset and should serve as a strategic plan that can take Zimbabwe forward.

"There is need for us to do policy advocacy, proper packaging and dissemination of research results," he said.

Key result areas of the new document are derived from the four clusters of [the] ZimAsset and there are specific aspects of the programme's performance that are of primary concern to its stakeholders.

For instance, participants heard that value addition of research as a driver of industry vis-à-vis modern methods and technologies can help improve the country's fortunes.

Participants concurred that funding for research should be prioritised if the process was to have favourable or desired outcomes.

"Funding is an issue. The document must reflect our intentions for funding research," one participant noted.

Doreen Moyo of Midlands State University said: "The strategic document is well-articulated. The plan should be made long-term, for five years, rather than three years which is short-term."

Agricultural Research Council chief executive, Isiah Mharapara said any research that does not respond to sectoral needs was useless.

"Funding must be attended to as a matter of urgency. Without that, then that would be a negation of our own priorities but then we end up following other people's agendas," he said, adding that the programme needed to be aligned to other agricultural activities for it to be sustainable.

The RCZ is a statutory body established in terms of the Research Act of 1986 and is mandated to promote, direct, supervise and co-ordinate research. One major function of RCZ is advising the government on issues of research for sustainable development.

The manufacturing industry in the United States is reportedly responsible for more than two-thirds of all private sector research and development, which eventually benefits other economic sector activities.

The manufacturing sector's innovation process leads to investments in equipment and people, productivity gains, the dispersal of beneficial technology to other sectors, as well as to new and improved products and processes.

The document is a three-year strategic plan but Zimbabwe's national research system has been characterised by limited financing of research.

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