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Zimbabwe State Universities must also open for business

07 Sep 2018 at 07:02hrs | Views
The introduction by His Excellence President ED Mnangagwa of the concept "Zimbabwe is open for business" which he continues to back-up with a raft of measures to open up the economy, continue to be well received by serious investors.  To-date and still counting, the economic sectors whose leadership have embraced the concept include the energy sector, mining sector, and agriculture sector. It is time leadership of Zimbabwe's knowledge sector, comprising mostly of state universities, also declare their being open for business towards active participation in the economy starting at provincial level.

Given that nearly every province  in Zimbabwe boasts of a state university, such declaration by the leadership of state universities would be important to signal their being available for active participation in provincial councils of their host provinces. Provincial councils and therefore, the concept of provincial economies, are inline with the devolution agenda of the government of the second republic. While the mission of  state universities had been accepted as mainly teaching with insignificant research, development and community service, now there exist an urgent need for state universities to project themselves as institutions that real matter to provincial innovative activity and ultimately sustainable economic development and growth in their host provinces.

Following the advent of the knowledge-based economy, there is now global appreciation that production of knowledge transforms into economic enterprise. Therefore, if state university leadership transform their institutions to knowledge generators and exploiters then they will be quick to gain an understanding of their important role in the growth of their host province economy, as drivers and catalysts of provincial innovative activity.

The recent announcement by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development that it is supporting the establishment of Science Parks and Innovation Hubs in state universities is most welcome. Indeed such developments only bolster the case for leadership about-turn or renewal in our state universities as advocated in this article. The state university leadership demanded in the second republic is one that  must be able to cause and support the entrepreneurial marketing of knowledge, creation of spin-in and spin-off companies, as well as champion continual innovative activity in their provinces.

The immediate focus of such a state university leadership will be to build institutional capacity in the main to produce or generate knowledge for the purpose to exploit, package or deploy the knowledge into products, processes or services that are readily absorbed into the provincial economy and / or "exported" to other provinces and beyond. Closely coupled with this focus is an urgent need for state-universities to align their mission to the needs of their host province economy.

Provincial councils and residents must now demand from the leadership of state universities in their  province technological research and development  activities either leading to the creation of new business ventures in their province or that facilitate technological innovations to existing companies in the province, the ultimate deliverable being to create jobs and contribute to sustainable provincial economic development and growth. To emphasize further, the provincial councils must demand forthwith from leadership of state universities in their provinces university outputs that will positively impact province competitiveness in terms of productivity and business innovation, business start-ups, increased provincial capacity for sustained development, and continuing provincial creativity and innovation.

The state university leadership renewal or rejuvenation demanded here would mark the beginning of the development of provincial technology-based economies in Zimbabwe towards success of the devolution agenda of the second republic.

Enock JONATHAN is a scientist and technologist and can be contacted via email address

Source - Enock Jonathan
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