Science and Technology in Zambia


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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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! …….

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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…

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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!

  12. 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!!

  13. #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.

  14. @ #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!!!

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

  16. #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.

  17. 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…???

  18. 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.

  19. 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?

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