Tanzania needs to invest in Research and Development
As Tanzania’s economy matures and moves higher up the value chain, it will no longer be able to rely on its rich natural resources like Diamond in Mwadui, Gold in Geita region and robust domestic consumption that has driven its growth over the past three decades. If the country wants to realise its ambition of being a top five African economies by 2025, it will have to innovate and create its own technology. For this to happen, the country needs researchers and scientists who can carry out cutting-edge research in business, media, telecommunication, medicine, sports, pharmaceuticals, consumer products and social trends. Tanzania need only look at its fellow member in South African Development Cooperation South Africa and its illustrious northern neighbour Kenya to see how far they are advancing due to investments in research and development.Several sub saharan African countries are spending a considerable chunk of their budget on research. South Africa, for example, has developed world-class biotechnology research labs and attracts global talent to work in the labs. Where does Tanzania stand on research and innovation? Sadly the country only spends less than half a percent of its GDP on research, amounting to approximately Tshs 43 billion ($28m) a year.
One of the grandees in Tanzania research community told me it is a crime that researchers in the country with Ph.D.’s are paid less than Tshs 5 million a month. Namibia has become the preferred destination for Tanzanian researchers and doctors and its should concern those in charge. I wonder how Tanzania will attract the best brains if it does not value its own talent. A recent study claimed that Tanzania will need some 300,000 additional researchers across the sciences in order to catch up with the rate of technological advance in countries with strong research programs in Africa like South Africa, Morocco and Egypt. At present, the number of researchers in Tanzania is insignificant and needs urgent attention. This means the government of Hon Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and the thriving private sector must do more to promote the sciences and invest in new research facilities. Currently there are only a handful of such facilities in the United Republic of Tanzania which has a population of estimated 48 million people in 2013. Experts have long warned that if this situation is not rectified, in the longer term it will affect economic growth and social progress of a country that was recently ranked as the one that offers best retail business investment opportunities in whole of Sub saharan Africa.