In what has been accepted as international practice, government last week launched the Research, Science, and Technology and Innovation (RSTI) advisory committee. This committee is expected to take the forefront in advising and crafting of guidelines and implementation frameworks of the national innovation agenda.
Governments worldwide have advisory bodies that interact with government at the highest level to guide and advice on integration of global trends, comparative advantage and market demands in setting up national Research, Science and Technology priorities for efficient use of limited resources.
Botswana is currently moving in high speed to transform its economy from being resources based to knowledge based. Research, science and technology as well as innovation are viewed as key factors to realizing an industrial and export based economy driven by the private sector. Speaking at the launch Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science & Technology Alfred Madigele said the committee will be a vital role player in the implementation of the Research Science Technology and Innovation Policy.
The minister said Botswana was determined to diversify its economy from reliance on minerals, especially diamonds. “However, time is ripe for discovery of new sources of revenue with a clear conscious mind that natural resources are not for forever,” he said. This committee establishment comes on the back of concerns and recommendations from a number of engagements and dialogues. Currently Botswana already has some structures for advising on how to leverage the capabilities of RSTI in driving the country’s social and economic development.
Madigele said the Economic Diversification Drive Policy and Strategy raised a concern that although Botswana has experienced four decades of rapid economic growth, the economy continues to be less diversified and driven by primary products of diamonds, copper/nickel and beef, with a high import bill. “The EDD Strategy therefore envisages achievement of economic diversification through implementation of the EDD Technology Development, Innovation and Transfer Thematic Area. This is expected to make Botswana a vibrant technology driven economy through technological development, adaptation, transfer and innovation,” he said.
According to Minister Madigele these are core elements for competitiveness in the globalized economic environment and that through research and development, EDD strategic initiatives would inform business decisions based on needs-based research studies and reliable economic data. The Research Science Technology & Innovation Advisory Committee is expected to work with other stakeholders from parastatal, and government innovation facilitating organs.
Amongst those are the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) Research, Innovation, Science & Technology Sector Committee which seeks to develop and create, a fully functional national RIST human resource development system where concept and scope of education, innovation and science are integrated leading to enhanced innovation and entrepreneurship. Minister Madigele who is in processes of assembling structures under his new ministry says It has not been easy to establish the recommended structures, “ I took a deliberate step to establish a RSTI Advisory committee to provide the necessary guidance and direction” he said.
The Committee which will be chaired by the Permanent Secretary- Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology will have representation from other ministries such as that of Basic Education, Agricultural Development and Food Security, as well as from Business Botswana, Statistics Botswana, Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation(BITRI), Botswana Innovation Hub(BIH), Botswana International University of Science and Technology(BUIST), University of Botswana(UB), National Food technology Research Centre, Botswana Vaccine Institute, Botswana Geo-Science Institute, Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Botswana Harvard Aids Institute Partnership, Okavango Research Institute and two (2) independent Professionals drawn from members of the public. Magidele urged the members of the RSTI Advisory Committee to objectively deliberate the issues at hand without favor or pulling to one side.
According to a recent survey undertaken by the Human Resource Development Council in collaboration with Statistics Botswana in 2016 the enrolment of students in Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction and Sciences in the country amounted to 26% of total enrolment in our tertiary institutions that year. Experts and professional as well as shrewd policy makers say engineers and scientists are the engines of research and innovation.
According to Madigele the Botswana figure on science and engineering related graduates demonstrates minimal Research, Development and Innovation intensity in the country. “Without producing sufficient numbers of graduates in pure sciences, engineering and mathematics, the country cannot expect a turn-around in research and innovation.”He said adding that it was for such reason he had to involve academia and scholars from academic institutions to advice on human resource and transformed education system crafting.
This week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka approached parliament seeking lawmakers approval of Government’s intention to increase bond program ceiling from the current P15 Billion to P30 billion.
“I stand to request this honorable house to authorize increase in bond issuance program from the current P15 billion to P30 billion,” Dr Matsheka said. He explained that due to the halt in economic growth occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic government had to revisit options for funding the national budget, particularly for the second half of the National Development Plan (NDP) 11.
Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) has this week revealed a gloomy picture of diamond mining newcomer, Lucara, with its stock devaluated and its entire business affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A BSE survey for a period between 1st January to 31st August 2020 — recording the second half of the year, the third quarter of the year and five months of coronavirus in Botswana — shows that the Domestic Company Index (DCI) depreciated by 5.9 percent.
Botswana Diamond PLC, a diamond exploration company trading on both London Stock Exchange Alternative Investment Market (AIM) and Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) on Monday unlocked value from its shares to raise capital for its ongoing exploration works in Botswana and South Africa.
A statement from the company this week reveals that the placing was with existing and new investors to raise £300,000 via the issue of 50,000,000 new ordinary shares at a placing price of 0.6p per Placing Share.
Each Placing Share, according to Botswana Diamond Executives has one warrant attached with the right to subscribe for one new ordinary share at 0.6p per new ordinary share for a period of two years from, 7th September 2020, being the date of the Placing Warrants issue.
In a statement Chairman of Botswana Diamonds, John Teeling explained that the funds raised will be used to fund ongoing exploration activities during the current year in Botswana and South Africa, and to provide additional working capital for the Company.
The company is currently drilling kimberlite M8 on the Marsfontein licence in South Africa and has generated further kimberlite targets which will be drilled on the adjacent Thorny River concession.
In Botswana, the funds will be focused on commercializing the KX36 project following the recent acquisition of Sekaka Diamonds from Petra Diamonds. This will include finalizing a work programme to upgrade the grades and diamond value of the kimberlite pipe as well as investigating innovative mining options.
Drilling is planned for the adjacent Sunland Minerals property and following further assessment of the comprehensive Sekaka database more drilling targets are likely. “This is a very active and exciting time for Botswana Diamonds. We are drilling the very promising M8 kimberlite at Marsfontein and further drilling is likely on targets identified on the adjacent Thorny River ground,” he said.
The company Board Chair further noted, “We have a number of active projects. The recently acquired KX36 diamond resource in the Kalahari offers great potential. While awaiting final approvals from the Botswana authorities some of the funds raised will be used to detail the works we will do to refine grade, size distribution and value per carat.”
In addition BOD said the Placing Shares will rank pari passu with the Company’s existing ordinary shares. Application will be made for the Placing Shares to be admitted to trading on AIM and it is expected that such admission will become effective on or around 23 September 2020.
Last month Botswana Diamond announced that it has entered into agreement with global miner Petra Diamonds to acquire the latter’s exploration assets in Botswana. Key to these assets, housed under Sekaka Diamonds, 100 % subsidiary of Petra is the KX36 Diamond discovery, a high grade ore Kimberlite pipe located in the CKGR, considered Botswana’s next diamond glory after the magnificent Orapa and prolific Jwaneng Mines.
The acquisition entailed two adjacent Prospecting Licences and a diamond processing plant. Sekaka has been Petra’s exploration vehicle in Botswana for year and holds three Prospecting Licenses in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (Kalahari) PL169/2019, PL058/2007 and PL224/2007, which includes the high grade KX36 kimberlite pipe.