Botswana’s Ambassador to the United States of America, Mr Onkokame Kitso Mokaila, has described his visit to the University of Botswana as an eye opener in that it helped him appreciate the potential the university has to grow Botswana’s economy.
“I am highly impressed,” said Mr Mokaila in an interview with UB News after a tour of various departments at the Faculty of Engineering and Technology as well as those of Science and Health Sciences on August 3, 2022. “Obviously we don’t know enough about what happens in our own institutions and the level of technology being used in these institutions,” he added.
Conversely, Mr Mokaila was highly impressed by the level of technology and expertise at the University of Botswana. Therefore, he could not help express confidence that the environment at the University of Botswana presented many economic opportunities for Botswana but only if what the university was doing could be properly commercialized.
Mr Mokaila underscored the need for the University of Botswana to work with industry as well as other research institutions to leverage its potential besides solving common challenges in society.
He further highlighted the importance of collaborations in that the University of Botswana should find partnerships that could expose it to the rest of the world. He reckoned that as a government funded institution, the University of Botswana could not shoulder everything alone hence the need for partnerships.
That, he said, could also help attract foreign students who were eager to come to Africa especially African Americans who felt that Africa was naturally their home.
On the University of Botswana celebrating 40 years, Mr Mokaila credited the university for being instrumental in the development of Botswana particularly in training the human resource capital most of which was running government. “This is making big strides. I think Botswana can credit many of those working in government for having been through UB,” said Mr Mokaila.
Explaining the visit, Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, said the idea was for Mr Mokaila to appreciate the facilities and the research work the University of Botswana was engaged in. He noted that Mr Mokaila had been very instrumental in linking the University of Botswana with other world class institutions abroad.
“His Excellency Ambassador Mokaila has really been instrumental in linking us with partners in the US. We have been to the National Energy lab, one of the finest in the world in the world where they are doing research in alternative energy sources,” said Professor Norris.
Other partnerships that Mr Mokaila has secured for the University of Botswana are in the mining sector and Intellectual Property commercialization. Consequently, Professor Norris said Mr Mokaila’s visit was important for him to appreciate the research at the University of Botswana and niche areas that could be developed to establish more links with institutions abroad.
One of the ways through which to strengthen these links was to establish staff and student exchange programmes with institutions abroad more so that Mr Mokaila’s tour of duty in the US also covered countries such as Canada and some of the Caribbean Islands, added the Vice Chancellor.
On commercialization of research products, Professor Norris said the University of Botswana should have a dedicated office with experts who can help move the research value chain from product development to commercialization. He added that commercialization could also help in maintenance and acquisition of new equipment.