For the past three years, SANBio through the support of the BioFISA II Programme has funded 3 seed projects in Botswana with the BIH, Synmba – a synbiotic sorghum-based drink , Marula kernels extraction for natural seed oil and Healthy Smart Snacks, as well as one flagship project: a rapid field diagnostic test for bovine brucellosis.
The programme also contributed to the support and empowerment of the youth in Botswana through the SANBio Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Winter School for tertiary level students and young professionals in the biosciences sector.
As a result, two new SANBio Youth Ambassadors have been appointed and supported by the programme. In 2018, one of the Youth Ambassadors, Keagile Bati, received an opportunity to intern at the SA Innovation Summit and participated in the SANBio Lab Hackathon, another Youth Ambassador, Kenneth Photlokwe received training in aquatrans fish farming and transboundary livestock diseases. Currently, Photlokwe writes a weekly bioscience column for the Botswana Guardian newspaper. The two have also worked together to establish two new organisations to strengthen the biosciences ecosystem in Botswana.
Furthermore, for the past 2 years the BioFISA II programme has also supported female bioentrepreneurs in formal entrepreneurial activities through the FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme, which has trained over 300 women in entrepreneurship as well as technical skills.
Delivering the keynote address, Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Kekgonne Baipoledi said the Botswana and NEPAD SANBio/BioFISA II partnership is the country’s evidence as to their commitment towards the support of innovative enterprises.
“Our partnership with NEPAD SANBio/BioFISA II programme came at a time when there was a clear gap in the ecosystem to support innovation driven enterprises to access key interventions including innovation funding, acceleration platforms, networking and dedicated mentorship programmes. And I believe that the investment that they have committed in this programme will spark the spirit of innovation and its adoption going forward,” he said.
Baipoledi also expressed his gratitude and commended the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs for its continued support in the region.
“From the government of Botswana, through the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology as the custodian of science, technology and innovation policies, I would therefore like to commend the Finnish Ministry’s BioFISA II programme for their continued support innovation in the region.
As we mark the end of a significant milestone in the implementation of the programme, we all have to take stock of what remains to be done in order to further support the key projects and innovation driven enterprises to scale up their projects and access other markets,” he added.
Director of Innovation and Development at BIH Technology Park, Dr Budzanani Tacheba said while the SANBio partnership has enabled them to get their local researchers to work with regional partners in terms of research and development, it has also allowed the hub to further refine and fine tune its processes as a science, technology and innovation park. “I believe that going forward, we shall build upon the networks that we have made."
BioFISA II Programme Manager, Zvikomborero Tangawamira described the programme as an amazing journey: “The past 4 years we have been working with SANBio has been an amazing journey; we started with 15 projects and I can say today that we have 7 products that are on the market and 3 spin-offs from the different funding mechanisms that we had.”
“For Botswana in particular, we have worked with the BIH and we have managed to get 2 products on the market. But across everything that we have done in Botswana, one common theme has been the utilisation of natural resources. And I think this is an opportunity to take all these natural resources to the level that the country has done with the diamonds industry,” said Tangawamira.
She concluded by challenging the country – including the market – to further support the enterprises that have been developed through the programme’s partnerships.
After a successful and fruitful four years of BioFISA II, we will be closing the BioFISA II programme this year with an Annual Event on 21-22 May 2019 at the CSIR ICC, Pretoria South Africa. For information on the event, visit: http://www.nepadsanbio.org/AE19
By Kelebohile Sedieane