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Home » News » General » Agric twist: Botswana benchmarks in Israel

Agric twist: Botswana benchmarks in Israel

Publishing Date : 15 August, 2017

Author : REARABILWE RAMAPHANE

The world is evolving from old ways of doing business, providing service and ways of day to day life-technology is today’s blueprint to almost every undertaking.

World economies are devising innovative ways to create employment, grow their wealth base and better service their people and Botswana as a middle income state and developing economy is no exception. Currently the economy is heavily dependent on the finite mineral sector. The country is food insecure and largely depends on imports from neighbouring South Africa for almost every commodity used in our day to day life and the manufacturing sector remains untapped.

The agricultural space which is viewed with significant potential in economic diversification and employment creation is currently not fully explored. Within the agricultural sector, Botswana currently solicits revenue from the Beef sector but the industry is evidently not performing well, not as much faster adapting to modern ways compared to the Namibian and Brazilian industries.

However Botswana is progressing well when it comes to instilling the innovative culture amongst its economic engines and service delivery mechanism. The fundamental focus currently is on transforming the economy to being knowledge based, export led as well as private sector dominated where government only plays the role of facilitator and regulator. Botswana’s need to come up with cutting edge innovative ways of diversifying the economy was emphasized  at the National Innovation workshop organized by the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) in Gaborone on Monday.


It has been reiterated that Botswana needed to come up with national frameworks and blueprints that can cultivate the culture of innovation. Dr Theophilus Mooko Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science & Technology said it was no longer a matter of choice whether to be  innovative or not. “Our diamonds and other natural resources are depleting, we have to content with the thought of survival based innovation,” he said.


Mooko said time may not be on Botswana‘s side and that the country needed to tap into existing opportunities within the research and innovation space. He however cautioned that it was necessary to develop innovative strategies that are on the times with the global, technological and innovative outlook noting that otherwise Botswana may realize less progress from any other undertakings. “Our national innovation system would need to link with what is happening with our regional outlook,” he said.


As a developing economy Botswana acknowledges the need to learn and draw inspiration and strategic technical knowhow on issues of planning and policy crafting. In the area of innovation Botswana located Israel which is a country in the Middle East semi deserted with climatic conditions and natural vegetation much similar to that of Botswana or even worse. Israel has done exceptionally well in the area of innovation to attain 95 % food security and almost 100% employment rate. The Middle East country with rich ancient and religious history has also established itself as a ‘start up’ nation.


According to a report recently released by the Israel Innovation Authority,  is Israel home to over 2000 start-ups that were founded in the past decade, 3 000 small medium start-ups and high–tech companies, 30 growth companies, 50 large technology companies and 3 00 research & development centres of multinational corporations. Out of those start-ups 187 raised over 1.7 billion US Dollars in the second quarter of 2016 .The World Economic forum’s Global Competitiveness report 2016-2017 also recognizes Israel as the second most innovative nation in the world . The report ranks countries based on innovation including technological readiness, business sophistication and higher education.


The Agricultural sector which Botswana hopes to explore to reduce its import bill, diversify the economy and create employment with, is a highly developed industry in Israel. Israel is a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that the geography of Israel is not naturally conducive to agriculture. More than half of the land area is desert, and the climate and lack of  water resources do not favour farming. Only 20% of the land area is naturally arable. In 2008 agriculture represented 2.5% of total GDP and 3.6% of exports. While farm workers made up only 3.7% of the work force, Israel produced 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this with imports of grain, oilseeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar, figures which have seen a quadruple growth today.

At the workshop on Monday, it was noted that Botswana stands to benefit significantly from their benchmark exercises with Israel.  Gershon Kadar Ambassador of Israel to Botswana said his country takes pride in the agricultural innovation, taking into fact that Israel is relatively a desert .He said their water and irrigation system technology was the best in the world. Kadar revealed that about 35 Batswana students in the disciplines of Agriculture will go for an 11 month program in Israel where they will get exposure to Israel’s high tech world class agricultural innovative centres.

The students are expected to leave for Jerusalem in September this year. He said they will be learning Israel technologies undergoing both practical and academic capacity building from the high level research and innovation centres in the land. Anya Eldan –Vice President of Israel Innovation Authority said it was important that innovation policies have a specific economic call. “Otherwise it will not achieve progress, in Israel our Research & development is the best in the world,” she said. Eldan also noted that Israel had spent 4.5 % of their GDP on research and development. “The idea is not just for government to spent money on research & development to support innovation but to also build programs that leverage that money and brings the private sector on board,” she explained

Mooko asserted that it was important that Botswana learns from Israel’s innovation and to solicit opportunities that arise out of innovation to create jobs and grow the country’s economy. Botswana Innovation Hub Chief Executive Alan Boshwaen said their primary mandate was to drive the national innovation agenda with special emphasis on facilitating the commercialization of innovation.

“We are especially concerned with ensuring that new innovative products and services emerge at the end of a chain that involves research and engagement of industry role players and other stakeholders,” said Boshwaen. The Botswana Innovation Hub was established to contribute to the country’s economic development and competitiveness by creating new scientific, technological, and indigenous knowledge-based business opportunities. BIH fosters entrepreneurship and technology transfer, generates knowledge-based jobs, and attracts innovative companies and institutions to Botswana.

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