GOVERNMENT has committed 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) towards research and development (R&D) across all sectors of the economy, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
R&D supports innovation, enhances product development, boosts competitiveness and puts the economy on a path to sustainable growth.
The current allocation is significantly higher than its 2012 commitment under Comesa to spend $1,5 million per year.
Zimbabwe’s GDP, which shows the total value of final goods and services produced during a given financial period, was worth $17.85 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow 1,8% this year. Based on last year’s numbers, government has committed itself to spending close to $200 million per year on R&D.
“My government will support R&D more concertedly in order to realise improved yields and better quality of our agriculture products. We have in this regard committed 1% of our GDP to support R&D across all sectors,” Mnangagwa said in Bulawayo recently.
Government has set up a national innovation fund administered by the Ministry of Science and Technology Development to support research institutions and individuals with potentially innovative ideas.
Zimbabwe’s science, technology and innovation policy of 2012 identified four priority areas that government will be supporting through fiscal allocations namely nanotechnology, energy, water and indigenous knowledge systems.
Analysts say national targets for R&D spending as a share of GDP should be extended to the private sector as well to complement government efforts in stimulating innovation.
In the United States, one of the world’s most innovative economies, the private sector accounts for a greater proportion of R&D investment, 71% in 2009.
Companies that spend more on R&D have a high likelihood of success in innovation, product development, business development and export competitiveness.
Countries which are ranked high in R&D investment in both the private and public sectors also tend to be the most competitive exporters.
Mnangagwa also said government would accelerate the country’s mordenisation agenda, urging all new manufacturing concerns to incorporate the latest and most versatile technologies to enhance production efficiencies, lower costs and increase output.
“Furthermore, there is need for the adoption and adaptation of appropriate technologies in the agro-processing industry, especially in view of the prevalence of many micro and small-scale farmers across the country,” he said.
He also encouraged the private and public sectors to prioritise the upgrading of human resources within their organisations to keep abreast with the industrialisation and mordenisation agenda of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
“In line with our mechanisation drive, measures have been put in place to speed up the supply of agriculture equipment such as tractors for tillage,” Mnangagwa said.
“Equally important is the need to develop vibrant agro-processing industries which up-takes our primary products. To date, we have received investors interested in helping us further develop and construct more agro-based industries to process vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy products.”
He, however, exhorted beneficiaries of such programmes to fully utilise the equipment to enhance productivity as government would run these schemes under self-financing models.