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Science and Technology in Zambia

Time Posted: December 4, 2009 10:44 am

A PUPIL showcases a science project during a fair at Licef school in Lusaka

A PUPIL showcases a science project during a fair at Licef school in Lusaka

By Henry Kyambalesa

I recently read an article entitled “Government Urges Local Scientists to Be More Competitive” which appeared in the Lusaka Times (LT) of December 2, 2009. In the article, Science and Technology Minister Gabriel Namulambe was reported as having toured government-funded projects at the Technology Development Advisory Unit (TDAU) at the University of Zambia.

Technological inventions and innovations are of immense value to any given society. We, for example, know very well that the affluence being enjoyed in such countries as Canada, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States today is the direct outcome of a relentless quest for new and improved forms of technology in agriculture, agribusiness, commerce, and the manufacturing industries by individuals and institutions in such countries.

In developing countries like Zambia, on the contrary, zealous efforts by national governments to break the bondage of the masses of their people to misery, want and destitution have been thwarted partly by chronic scientific and technological backwardness. In Zambia, the scientific and technological sector is perhaps one of the obvious sectors where our country will continue to lag behind due to a host of constraints, which include the following:

(a) Traditional beliefs that are inconsistent with the promise and routines of science and technology, such as the association of the occurrence of such natural phenomena as lightning and the rainbow with fierce, giant snakes;

(b) Conspicuous neglect of formal and tertiary education;

(c) Failure by business, government and other institutions to use or promote findings or recommendations associated with research and development (R&D) activities under the pretext that they are merely ‘book materials’ which have no practical value;

(d) Inadequate scientific and technological (S&T) infrastructure, and the existence of a weak arrangement for facilitating the development of conceived product ideas and technological innovations;

(e) Misplacement of trained personnel, mainly due to political considerations;

(f) Inability of tertiary educational institutions to censor research and study programs that are not consistent with the current and/or future needs of commerce, industry and government;

(g) Dependence on foreign technology, which has made indigenous scientists and technologists in the country to be less creative because they expect industrialized nations to provide the necessary technical know-how;

(h) Loss of trained nationals to other countries through the brain drain, which has robbed the country of potential inventors and innovators;

(i) Patent protection (which was extended from 17 to 20 years by the World Trade Organization in 1993), which affords current inventors and innovators the opportunity to prevent potential competitors from entering certain technical fields or markets;

(j) A small domestic market, which cannot support the introduction of advanced production techniques that which normally evolve rates of output that are well beyond the size of the local market, and the inaccessibility of foreign markets due to poor transport infrastructure and other increment factors;

(k) A sluggish economy, which, among other things, cannot support investments in science and technology; and

(l) Lack of, or inadequate, political will and commitment to the advancement of scientific and technological know-how.

There are many practical ways and means by which the Zambian government and business institutions can stimulate the supply of, and/or the demand for, new forms of technology, such as the following: (a) addressing the needs of formal education; (b) designing research and study programs that are consistent with the needs of society; (c) adequately supporting R&D activities; (d) fostering innovation and creativity in commerce and industry through tax and other kinds of incentives; (e) generation of a suitable population policy designed to increase the size of the local market through population growth; (f) engaging in multilateral S&T initiatives with technologically advanced countries; and (g) keen governmental leadership.

Getting rid of sinecures in government, among other things, can release financial and material resources for investment in science and technology.

23 Comments

  1. vote
    flag Number one PF Cadre says: Number one PF Cadre
    December 4, 2009 at 11:08 am |

    A good article Kyambalesa, but don’t you think it’d be also beneficial for our country to import and implement technology (at least in the short-run) seeing that due to all the restraints you’ve itemised, we clearly do not have a comparative advantage in the technological sector to rival our Western and Asian counterparts.

    Reply
  2. vote
    flag Virginia Chinena says: Virginia Chinena
    December 4, 2009 at 11:09 am |

    Ba Henry Kyambalesa, with all due respect, there is nothing new that you have said that we haven’t heard from our politicians and people in key positions for so many years now. Everyone knows that. Zambians can’t just act. That’s what is lacking. ACTION! …….

    Reply
  3. vote
    flag Smoothcriminal says: Smoothcriminal
    December 4, 2009 at 11:10 am |

    Its just a matter of having priorities, right now the govnt is more pre-occupied with who to give contracts to supply goods and services and kickbacks, instead of improving on the infrastructure we already have like TDAU at UNZA,this department has a lot of potential but lack of funding cripples it,it all boils down to the leadership having misplaced priorities, not untill such a time when we are going to have focused, selfless and mature politcal leadership,then,maybe then we can talk about technological advancements ba Kyambalesa

    Reply
  4. vote
    flag Assistant MMD Chief Boot Licker says: Assistant MMD Chief Boot Licker
    December 4, 2009 at 11:15 am |

    These are good developments that Zambia should learn from. Let us encourage our students and see what we should buy for them to continue with the research. Zambia should learn from Japan. Just as small as the country is, it’s able to make vehicles that have even failed to contain in African countries.

    I am happy that our listening MMD is able to recognise such innovative people in the society. This is the reason why MMD deserves another term of office.

    Reply
  5. vote
    flag Mr. Capitalist says: Mr. Capitalist
    December 4, 2009 at 11:22 am |

    Victoria falls university which is set to open in 2011 in Livingstone Zambia is said to be a university that will put most emphasis on Science, Engineering and Technology. Part of the ways universities make their money is through research and development. With a proper patent structure put in place, Universities can develop various new scientific methods of doing things and also new technologies in various fields and they can sell these developments or sell some rights to a private company to produce the products, sell them and pay royalties to the university.

    Reply
  6. vote
    flag Mr. Capitalist says: Mr. Capitalist
    December 4, 2009 at 11:25 am |

    cont…

    A private company can also do this. It can engage in Science and Technology, sell part of the rights to another company that will produce the product and pay royalties to the company that took part in this research as long as a proper patent system is in place.

    The fact is private companies know about market conditions and can therefore engage universities or private companies to develop the technology they need. They don’t have to go to govt.

    “generation of a suitable population policy designed to increase the size of the local market through population growth”

    This point is silly. How long will it take to grow the population. Just integrate your markets. Sign a FTA with Malawi and you have a bigger market. We already have SADC and COMESA so we don’t…

    Reply
  7. vote
    flag peter says: peter
    December 4, 2009 at 11:47 am |

    The extent of as-licking by some Zambians is beyond my understanding. I would like to physically see some of these as-lickers such as #4. Maybe due to their extensive/intensive as-licking, their lips are as red as george kunda.

    Reply
  8. vote
    flag Kyambalesa 2 says: Kyambalesa 2
    December 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm |

    So Mr. Kyambalesa you have reduced yourself to a Lusaka Times correspondent? No wonder you have failed in politics and business. Am told credible media in Zambia don’t quote you because they have evaluated you and found you to be confused

    Reply
  9. vote
    flag THE SAINT says: THE SAINT
    December 4, 2009 at 12:48 pm |

    There are many good points in this article but what is missed is the fact that the vast majority of technological advances in the western world is driven from military research. Over and above all this, we need to celebrate the few brainy people we have. Most of the ditinguished service medals that successive presidents have dished out have been to politicians. Only the Goma lakes at the UNZA GER campus are named after a Zambian distinguished academic. To encourage innovation there must be national pride and recognition of innovative efforts.

    Reply
  10. vote
    flag Zimandola says: Zimandola
    December 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm |

    Ba Kyambalesa, I think quateni focus…. you cant be a champion advisor in all fields. Pick one isssue that people will recognise you for . Noti lelo nipa ma condomu, mailo lyashi lya mulembwe pa mbale, again pali technology awe quateni focus

    Reply
  11. vote
    flag Muntuza says: Muntuza
    December 4, 2009 at 1:59 pm |

    Well research piece but a couple of points Kyambalesa.
    @ (a), the belief in lightining and giant snakes is of your making, maybe to fill up space but it has no place in modern day Zed.
    @ (j), advancec production techniques do not depend on the size of the local market but on the availability of a market for the goods produced, either local or abroad eg chinese clothing industry, hong kong’s electronics industry, japan’s car industry, etc etc.
    @ (i), patent protection is not about preventing competitor in any field of interest but protecting and promoting intellectual rights.
    Keep the good work brother!

    Reply
  12. vote
    flag Yambayamba says: Yambayamba
    December 4, 2009 at 2:02 pm |

    Good article, Mr. Kyambalesa! But I would like to slightly disagree with you on your point in # (J). While it is true that Zambia is comparatively a small market, that should be the reason why sci & technology asphyxiated (strangled).

    There are plenty other small markets, in fact, some even smaller than Zambia who have taken a very different approach to developing their Science/Technology base, and are doing just fine. The prime example is Israel. Despite its small domestic market (in fact smaller than Zambia’s), Israel has one of the most advanced R&D sectors in the world (I once read about this somewhere), especially military & computer Sci.

    The point is, if you invest in knowledge based products (i.e. sci/tech/R&D) and produce a good product, your market becomes globle!!

    Reply
  13. vote
    flag Ka'doyo says: Ka'doyo
    December 4, 2009 at 2:04 pm |

    #8 Kyambalesa 2, is there any credible Media in Zambia REALY?????? By the way media is media as long as it has got a forum for somebody to voice their openion. Please stop bringing people down because thats what silences people and the reason why GRZ has always taken Zambians for granted.

    Reply
  14. vote
    flag Yambayamba says: Yambayamba
    December 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm |

    @ #12, I meant to say: “…..that shouldn’t be the reason why sci & technology should be asphyxiated or strangled.”…………..NOT!………….”that should be the reason why sci & technology asphyxiated (strangled).” ……………SORRY!!!

    Reply
  15. vote
    flag KAWIMBE says: KAWIMBE
    December 4, 2009 at 3:20 pm |

    Kyambalesa, I must confess that am addicted to your articles. They have so much depth and the analysis is superb. Keep it up.

    Reply
  16. vote
    flag sichi powerz says: sichi powerz
    December 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm |

    # 15 keep it up..i was to write like you wrote..nice analisis…

    Reply
  17. vote
    flag The Lord SITH says: The Lord SITH
    December 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm |

    Good article generally. A few repetitions tho’

    Reply
  18. vote
    flag Imfumu1 says: Imfumu1
    December 4, 2009 at 11:36 pm |

    #13 Ka’doyo, by credible media in Zambia, #8 Kyambalesa 2 probably means the Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail, ZNBC, and ZANIS. I have read Kayambalesa’s letters in The Post newspaper, and have heard some of his ideas broadcast on community radio stations. In 2006, I watched a video of Kayambalesa on Muvi TV.

    Reply
  19. vote
    flag Kabansa Tente says: Kabansa Tente
    December 5, 2009 at 3:30 am |

    For those of you busy shooting down “Henry Kyambalesa” can we see your analysis in an article?

    Reply
  20. vote
    flag SweetZED says: SweetZED
    December 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm |

    Does it really pay to be a Scientist or an Engineer in Zambia? Given chance and career qualities that fit all, would someone rather be a scientist or an accountant in Zambia? …or not just venture in small business instead of school? Are the Diplomas, Certificates, Degrees in Engineering and Science any Valuable today in our Mother land?

    That in itself determines how much demoralizing hard work in the science and technology comes out to an average Zambian. They seem to only be appreciated oversees, hence the massive brain drain! Comment from any one on this view…???

    Reply
  21. vote
    flag tonga girl says: tonga girl
    December 5, 2009 at 7:28 pm |

    i agree with #20. that boy in the pic probably wants to study accounts or business like almost everyone else in zambia. people are into the fast courses with the big money.

    Reply
  22. vote
    flag Bruce Diesel says: Bruce Diesel
    December 7, 2009 at 9:56 am |

    I am a Software engineer and I have been aiming to be one since I was in 9th Grade. Not everyone wants to be an Accountant, a business man or a politician. It is just that those that make it are usually the dullest. Look at the qualifications of our MPs. How do you expect them t champion technology when they never made it past 1st grade? dont even go to the Cabinet ministers. The doctors in government studied some irrelevant shinanigans like marine science… What is going on?

    Reply
  23. vote
    flag hi says: hi
    May 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm |

    nice:(( i cant find a chart of it though:)>-peace out

    Reply

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