SPEECH BY AMBASSADOR OMBENI Y. SEFUE, CHIEF SECRETARY OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA ON THE OPENING OF THE LABORATORY WORKSHOP ON REVIEWING THE NATIONAL SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION SYSTEM IN TANZANIA HELD AT KUNDUCHI BEACH HOTEL, DAR-ES-SALAAM, MONDAY 16TH MARCH 2015
CEOs and Representatives from Private Sector Organizations, Directors and Heads of Government and Public Institutions,
Members of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel greatly honoured and privileged to be given this opportunity to officiate at the opening of this “Laboratory” Workshop on Reviewing the National Science, Technology and Innovation System.
I welcome all participants and especially those who have travelled long distances from other countries to attend the workshop. On behalf of the Government of Tanzania, I thank you deeply for agreeing to contribute your valuable time, intellect and experience to this important national endeavour. I believe the conducive environment of this hotel, and the tourist attractions in nearby areas such as Bagamoyo, will add value to the time that you will spend in our country, and make your visit even more worthwhile.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This venue has already witnessed several successive, and successful, lab workshops such as this since the start of the Big Results Now initiative in our country. Most of these labs lasted six weeks. Yours will last only three weeks. So you will get off more easily. But since you are all experts in innovation, I am sure this workshop will be equally if not more successful in achieving the expected results.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You are here to contribute to our efforts to establish framework conditions for enhancing the role of science, technology and innovation in securing future prosperity of our country. We also want you to develop a roadmap for implementing the key recommendations that will come out of the review process. Both of these are important goals that will create the necessary conditions to enable the country access and leverage global technological developments, adapting them to our circumstances, applying them to the challenges we face, and thereby guaranteeing the people of Tanzania the prosperity they aspire for and deserve.
As I pointed out, we have used the lab methodology to find quick solutions to various socio-economic challenges that the country faces. But, perhaps, the lab methodology is even more appropriate in reviewing the national science, technology and innovation system. For, the lab methodology is innovation in itself. And a lab is typically a scientific space used in carrying out scientific investigations and analyses. It brings out the feeling of a busy environment where things are turned around and investigated thoroughly through systematic scientific principles to reveal the hidden truth and bring out new knowledge and understanding of the thing(s) being investigated. For me, applying the lab approach to review the science, technology and innovation (STI) system is like using iron to sharpen iron. I am confident that the anticipated outcome from this workshop will avail our country the right framework conditions that will enhance the role of STI in propelling Tanzania to the next level of development as anticipated in our Development Vision 2025. We also hope that such a framework will attract regional and international entities to invest in technology intensive developments and collaborate with us in many other scientific and technological endeavours for mutual benefit.
Innovation, which forms the central theme of this workshop, has always been the anchor and the engine that engenders development throughout the history of mankind. The industrial revolution of the nineteenth century was fuelled by technological innovations. Ever since, the trend has been faster and far-reaching innovations transforming our world.
Technological innovations and adaptations have in the last fifty years or so transformed and propelled poor countries into the middle and high income bracket, a speed of transformation that is unparalled in history. Examples come to mind – South Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia and others. Going forward, with existing technological innovations providing the platform for even faster transformation of systems, of productivity and of efficiency, those countries that embrace innovation will continue to outpace the laggards.
Last month I was privileged to attend The Government Summit in Dubai. Among other things we looked at how science, technology and innovation will shape future governments and their relationship with their citizens. We looked at innovations in things such as networked governments, smart cities, digital technologies that transform public service delivery and act as catalysts for economic growth and innovation, big data and the application of its phenomenal analytical capabilities to better target government service and respond to natural disasters, and yes, even crime.
Our host, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, provided the motto for the summit “Innovate or Stagnate”. He made it clear that “The question of innovation...is an existential one for governments. To be an innovative government is to be a government that matters.”
Tanzania does not want to stagnate, and our government wants to matter. So we must do more to embrace science, technology and innovation. And that is why this workshop is so important to us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A central aspect of innovation is change, and especially the courage to change – change in the way we think and change in the way we do things. When we look at the short history of independent Tanzania, we see some of these characteristics, with ground breaking and courageous changes in the way we think and act. Each of the four phases of government that have run our country since independence have embraced the notion of change and innovation, though not necessary technological. For example, the first phase under the founding President, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, secured our independence, implemented huge internal transformations, including initiating villagilisation, privatisation, establishment of many state owned industries and parastatal organisations and supporting most liberalisation movements in and outside Africa. These were momentous, and very bold, undertakings for a newly independent country.
The second phase under the leadership of His Excellency Ali Hassan Mwinyi initiated economic reforms, transforming the country from a socialist to a market based economy. The third phase under the leadership of His Excellency Benjamin William Mkapa initiated huge infrastructure investments and undertook massive macro-economic stabilisation initiatives.
The fourth phase – under the current leadership of His Excellency Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete - has extended further the construction of infrastructure and introduced economic and technological capabilities and instruments in the economy, again in unprecedented proportions. It is also a fact that under the leadership of President Kikwete, a bold initiative was taken to provide unprecedented levels of resource allocation to support R&D initiatives, as well as innovation. There is perhaps no better test of President Kikwete’s commitment to STI than the budgetary outlays he has provided, and continues to provide, to this endeavour. I believe that recommendations from this lab will greatly complement these initiatives and thereby enhance the framework conditions for science, technology and innovation.
For me, science, technology and innovation present the solutions to many of the socio-economic challenges we face – some emanating from the fast pace of technology itself but also those emanating from other factors such as globalisation and demography. Technological platforms provide a basis upon which to address the needs of young people, who are more adept at embracing technology than older people. These include the need for jobs and entrepreneurship. And here I want to commend our Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) for creating the innovation and entrepreneurship incubator that has already produced new businesses, opportunities and solutions for our young people and the country at large.
But technological platforms also provide a basis for negative outcomes, such as cybercrime. The social media, a powerful tool, empowers young people to tear down what they do not like (as has happened in some parts of North Africa), but does not empower them to build what they like. This creates feelings of being “lost” and desperate, disposing them to grab any fashionable ideology from global sources. This can be extremely dangerous. We need innovation in developing content and applications that are not only relevant and helpful, but which keeps young people away from the negative baggage of interconnectedness. My advise to you is to maintain a holistic and global view of all matters that touch or impact our country as you develop your recommendations so as to be relevant to all the challenges that we face.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I conclude, I want to make it clear that we all have an important role to play. All of you participating here are stakeholders in achieving the aims of this workshop – the private sector, public institutions, development partners. I recognise that the government has an equally important role to play in creating the fertile ground necessary for a robust science, technology and innovation culture and practice to sprout and thrive.
I am here to assure you that the government will take all your recommendations seriously. We need your recommendations on what more the government could realistically do to support STI. My promise is that we will welcome those recommendations and collaborate with all the parties as much as possible to realize them. On a similar note, I believe that the different parties represented here will be prepared to implement recommendations that fall on their shoulders. This lab should generate the buy-in of disparate entities and ensure we all converge and emerge with a shared vision. And that is why I very much look forward to a fruitful outcome of this workshop.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I once again warmly welcome you all to the lab workshop. My advice to those coming from outside Tanzania is to use the allowable time on your programme to enjoy the hospitality of Dar-es-Salaam and to see the attractions around the city and other areas of the country. But above all, I leave you with the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. “Innovate or Stagnate.” And for Tanzania, we know that, going forward, innovation is an existential issue for our nation as well. We look forward to receiving ideas and pointers from this workshop- from this lab- so that we too can progress on the back of Science, Technology and Innovation.
And it is now my greatest pleasure to declare that The “Laboratory” Workshop on Reviewing the National Science, Technology and Innovation System is officially launched. I thank you for your kind attention.