Key policy recommendations on how to develop an efficient Research and Innovation Policy to accelerate the transition to an innovation-led and knowledge-based economy were presented during the final event of the OACPS R&I Policy Support Facility service in Lesotho.
Held virtually on 1st December, the closing event of the OACPS R&I Policy Support Facility (PSF) service in Lesotho was attended by around 50 key national, regional and international stakeholders, including high representatives from various ministries, institutions and universities in Lesotho, the Secretariat of the Organisation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), the South African Development Community (SADC), the European Union, the UN Technology Bank and the South African Department of Science and Innovation.
The Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology (MCST) of Lesotho – the first country to benefit from this EU-funded PSF innovative mechanism- requested the support of the OACPS Secretariat towards the development of an inclusive and evidence-based Research and Innovation Policy and the setting up of a national Research and Innovation Agency.
The Expert Panel, in charge for the delivery of this PSF service, carried out this Policy Recommendations Report (PRR) between June and November 2021.
In his presentation, Prof. Leboli Zachia Thamae, Chair of the PSF Expert Panel, outlined short, medium and long-term recommendations for a successful and impactful R&I Policy. The Expert Panel also highlighted that the establishment of a national Research and Innovation Agency should be a priority to implement the R&I Policy, spearhead R&I in the country, build the research capacity and bring innovations to the market.
The recommendations included in the PRR are articulated, among others, towards three main issues:
- Improve the quality, relevance and inclusiveness of higher education and TVET, with a focus on STEM fields, to produce a skilled and employable workforce in order to better respond to the socioeconomic, cultural and development needs of Lesotho;
- Prioritize investments in collaborative R&I, by strengthening cooperation between government, academia, industry, and society, and mobilizing indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) and grassroots innovations;
- Create a more conducive environment for innovation (through incentives, tax measures, innovation hubs, an open data platform, etc.).
As for the long term, the Expert Panel recommends to actively support the adoption of emerging technologies (in agriculture, health, ICT, manufacturing digitization and green economy) in order to set the country on a low-carbon, resource-efficient, climate-resilient and sustainable pathway.
Speaking on behalf of the Secretariat of the OACPS, Dr. John F. Kakule – Expert, Science and Technology at OACPS- underscored that “Policies are only effective if well implemented. As such, the development and effective operationalisation of the Research and Innovation Policy requires the cooperation of all the actors and stakeholders.” In this regard, he expressed his satisfaction to see the participation of representatives from regional and international organisations, “as cooperation is the most effective way to tackle global challenges. “
In her intervention, Mrs. Simona Mari, from the Directorate-General for International Partnerships at the European Commission, pointed out the importance of ownership of these policy recommendations by the national authorities: “ the Department of Science and Technology should take the lead and try to connect and establish a Multistakeholder Forum to see how to go further on the implementation and what is needed.(…) It is really important that we can see political and financial commitment in the implementation of these recommendations, and on that basis, a whole process should be built upon”.
Hon. Tšoinyana Rapapa, the Lesotho Minister of Communication, Science and Technology, concluded the final event by these words: “This policy will assist us implement our NSDP II which is also aligned with the African Union Agenda 2063, SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020 – 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We now have our policy recommendation report from the team of experts whose work officially ends today and what is left for us is to make sure that this document serves its purpose.”
This final event of the first PSF service represents a milestone for the OACPS Secretariat in its efforts to support ACP countries in enhancing their national R&I systems.