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Monday, 12 September 2011

How do we transform the rural economy?

Nahus Angula (Namibia PM) believes the answer lies with innovation :
If our rural economies are going to change we must promote the production, diffusion and application of new technologies. Similarly, if the Namibian economy is going to be transformed we must build technological capabilities.

In order to acquire the technological capability at a national level we must put into place a national innovative system. Such a system should integrate and interconnect institutions, private firms, institutions of higher learning, research institutes and policy makers. Moreover, a national system of innovation shall be responsible to generate a national innovation strategy. Such a strategy shall aim at identifying priority areas for knowledge production, technology diffusion, and knowledge application. The overall goal is to build a technological capacity and to mainstream innovation in economic development.

Going back to Onyaanya village, it means focusing among others on weed control technologies, soil conversation technologies, research into mahangu seeds, post harvest cereal treatment, mealing, manufacturing of various products and marketing.If new innovations could be successfully introduced in my village mahangu should improve. Mahangu would become a full commercial commodity. Poverty would become history.

However, a national system of innovation will only come about through public investment. Namibia as a developmental State must allocate at least one percent (1%) of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) to innovation, research and development. The innovation strategy should prioritise sectors which need urgent structural transformation to be the focus of innovation. Appropriate institutions should be identified to produce the necessary knowledge, invention and innovation. Strategies for knowledge production, technological diffusion, and knowledge application should be clearly devised.
All very good of course, but in addition to this I would two things. Importance of increasingly "market discovery" so rural areas know more about their opportunities; and, focusing innovation not just on foreign technologies but also indigenous knowledge. That said, it should be underlined that the question of transformation of local capacity is one of looking at short versus long term. For Zambia, and to much less extent Namibia, the question of local employment is the more urgent one. The way to tackle that is to  focus on greater provision of other public goods such as transport and greater government support in creating food processing industries linked to local advantages. That should then be linked to medium term to long term policies around innovation. You can read more from Prime Minister Angula here

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