The envisaged University of Botswana innovation centre has potential to transform Botswana’s economy, says Chinese Ambassador to Botswana, Dr Zhao Yanbo.
Dr Zhao was speaking at a short ceremony the University of Botswana organised on June 25, 2020 to appreciate a P400 000 donation the Chinese Embassy made towards the innovation centre.
The Engineering and Technology Innovation Centre (ETIC) will be used as a platform for research collaboration, design, prototyping, testing and building innovative solutions using cutting‐edge technology and manufacturing tools. The aim is to stimulate creativity and innovation amongst UB staff, students and members of the public.
In appreciating the aims of the centre, Dr Zhao said this could be a project to transform Botswana’s economic development. “Being a long time partner of UB, the Embassy wasted no time in offering our support to the project…and we are glad and proud of playing a part in building an innovative Botswana,” he observed. Dr Zhao added that when Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, reached out to him last year about this centre, “I immediately realised that it could become a major platform for new business and start-ups in Botswana”.
He said given the urgent need to get the country’s economy back on track and to continue growth, the significance of ETIC was self-evident. Dr Zhao acknowledged that once complete, ETIC would provide facilities and space to support students, alumni, staff and even the public to turn their viable business ideas into physical prototypes that once commercialised would help create jobs, drive innovation and foster a knowledge-based economy.
Dr Zhao commended UB leadership for foresight and being responsive to societal needs. He noted that the contribution that UB has made in the fight against COVID-19 has proved that “We Innovate” was not just a slogan for UB.
As a premier institution of higher learning in Botswana, Dr Zhao said UB has set a fine example in its quest to remain relevant and socially accountable in Botswana’s pandemic response. He paid tribute to the UB staff that was involved in the fight against COVID-19 in their different capacities.
“You are all heroes in this battle against the common enemy of mankind,” said Dr Zhao to UB experts who have developed face shields, ventilation hoods, facemasks, ventilators and software tools for COVID-19 monitoring. He pledged his support to cushion UB against the impact of COVID-19 and continued partnership in the post=pandemic era.
Professor Norris thanked the Chinese Ambassador for the donation because it would help the University of Botswana position itself to occupy a leading role in Botswana’s innovation eco-system.
Giving a vote of thanks, Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Professor Happy Siphambe, said it was not easy given Botswana’s income level as an upper middle income country to access bilateral assistance in the world. Therefore he thanked the Chinese Embassy for the assistance.
Professor Siphambe said the Chinese assistance would be used wisely to build Botswana’s economy in that ETIC would be positioned at the core of the country’s development process.