Opinion – Importance of research-practice partnerships for economic growth

Finding solutions to the pressing socio-economic challenges facing societies around the world is a colossal task. In Namibia, a middle-income country with a third world economy, the solutions to the most basic problems can be found in the capitals of developed countries. Why? The available evidence shows that Namibia spends 0.34% on research and development (R&D).

Whatever this figure represents in real terms, at the operational level, most Namibian public institutions and some private institutions scorn investment in R&D. Interestingly, although R&D departments are well established in public sector institutions, accountants would prefer to spend the so-called research budget on entertainment and other personal allowances.

Why then should public and private institutions in Namibia promote research? Vision 2030 identifies education, science and technology as the “driving forces” to achieve its development goals. The African Academy of Sciences encourages Namibian institutions to invest in research for several reasons.

It is only through research that Namibia will transform into a knowledge-based economy, which can help propel the socio-economic growth of the country. In addition, investing in research will enable Namibia to develop local solutions to the many problems identified in Vision 2030.

It is disheartening to note that African governments in the third world, including Namibia, more than six decades after gaining political independence, still do not believe in homemade solutions to their local problems. Take, for example, the bucket toilet problem, which remains a thorn in parts of Namibia today.

While the elite may argue that the bucket toilet is a form of dry toilet similar to that proudly used in some countries around the world, bucket toilets are a dehumanizing practice for affected Namibians.

How then can researchers, policy makers and practitioners solve Namibia’s most pressing socio-economic problems? The answer lies in research. No number of prayers and / or magical events will serve humanity and Namibians in the current and looming environmental crisis.

In developed countries, estimates show that there are about 25 full-time equivalent researchers per 10,000 people. No wonder these countries can produce so many knowledge-intensive products – products with high technological content, which support and influence all aspects of human life, namely agriculture, education, manufacturing, health. , etc.

The Namibian government should therefore seek a critical strategy for its governance. However, with a meager national budget in the face of growing national needs, how can Namibia build research capacity and increase the country’s research output? At the national level, research should be encouraged in four main areas.

The state, through research councils and government departments, higher education institutions, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, including trade unions, should enter into research-practice partnerships (RPPs) as a primary strategy for address the most pressing socio-economic issues affecting Namibia today. Within such partnerships, research teams and research communities should be established, in which social and natural scientists work together to dissect identified socio-economic issues from different angles. For example, several researchers can study infant deaths from pneumonia from different angles.

RPPs are defined by longevity, mutual decision-making and compromise, and both parties’ commitment to solving large-scale systems-level problems, rather than a single project or research question. Research-practice partnerships should therefore be encouraged as they can (a) foster close collaborations, (b) help policymakers solve the big problems to be solved, and (c) complete the work quickly enough to drive change.

Certainly Namibia needs a strong research environment to change the way we do things in almost every sector of the economy. For such an environment to exist, the Namibian research policy landscape requires a new approach, a 360-degree thinking approach and a total change in the way the state and organizations plan, execute and share their research needs. . However, such an approach will only occur when the government decides, through partnerships, to promote development and investment in research. Concerns about climate change, social policy in education, health and other socio-economic aspects require a multidimensional approach, collaboration, long-term commitment and systems thinking.

2021-11-30 Journalist

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