Tanzania: ‘Government policymakers snub research findings’

By Elias Mhegera, Dar es Salaam – THE trend whereby research findings remain unused by Government policymakers is counterproductive, and could discourage researchers from working conscientiously in their field.

Photo of St Augustine University of Tanzania, Mwanza Campus

Photo of St Augustine University of Tanzania, Mwanza Campus

Such was the claim made on Wednesday 18 April, by Senorine Libena, main spokesperson for the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) pavilion at the 7th Higher Education Exhibitions, at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam.

Libena said that currently it is mainly students and a few researchers who take their time to read research findings, for their various assignments, but it is on very few occasions that policymakers, including legislators, visit research centres so as to get a glimpse of studies and documentation.

“We have conducted various pieces of research on economics and other pertinent social issues, but very few have had the common sense to visit us, the legislators could have had an added advantage when contributing on the poverty-reduction strategy, but very few have seen the importance of visiting our library,” commented Libena.

Some of the few documents that were available at the pavilion were to do with the Tanzanian culture, environment and economic development, school competitions and student-learning rights, aid effectiveness in Tanzania and the results produced by the importation of counterfeit products.

Other subjects were the benefits that Tanzania may derive from the East African Common Market (EACM), studies on the plight of albinos in Tanzania, and the ESRF policy brief.

He elaborated further that one strategy has been to conduct online chat-room discussions in order to attract views from various stakeholders, and ultimately the results to be used by policymakers, but very few of such documents are ever utilised.

He moreover expressed thanks for the cooperation between his institution and other similar bodies in research fields, like TAKNET and Tanzania Online, which has to a certain extent enlivened and informed debates, particularly on policy issues.

Libena suggested that Government, ministries and other institutions should utilize research findings from the ERSF because they are evidence-based, and they can have a tremendous effect on the development initiatives of this country.

With the theme: “Empowering Communities through Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation”, more than 84 academic and research institutions from Tanzania and from abroad exhibited their works.

For her part, Ms Cezalia Mwidima from St Augustine’s University of Tanzania (SAUT), said that her university has striven to ensure that all youngsters who are qualified through getting tertiary education do so at minimum cost.

“Mine is the only university with constituent colleges in nine regions,” she enthused. However she admitted that it is an uphill task to ensure that quantity matches with quality in the provision of tertiary education.

Apart from its main campus in Mwanza, where also the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference (TEC), owns Weill Bugando University College of Health Sciences, SAUT has extended as far as Iringa, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro, and Ruvuma.

The university has also managed to open centres in Bukoba and Mtwara, and it has an extended partnership all over the world with the exception of South America. “All of our courses are practical-orientated in order to provide room for self employment for our graduates,” she concluded.

But with quite a different stance was Ms Cornelia Wamba, who represented the Tanzanian Institute of Project Management (TIPM), saying that a good number of projects in Tanzania are not successful because they lack qualified personnel in the field.

“We should understand that project management is a field and profession in itself; lack of it has caused a lot of failures or losses in various projects,” she commented.

Revisiting her experience in South Africa, where she pursued studies in diplomacy and public relations, Ms Wamba said that it was not strange that there are a lot of tax exemptions for new projects in Tanzania which are unnecessary, as they cause losses.

“Any project is introduced with a combination of resources including finances and time, which should also be taken into consideration whenever one thinks of an exemption,” commented Cornelia.

She counselled the government to introduce project management as a core course in all universities, since there are many projects which need such skills, like project write-up, effective management of projects, and contracts, all these need qualified personnel, she said.

From the University of Dodoma (UDOM), Ms Beatrice Balthazar discussed the extra benefits for college students when compared with day students.

“At my university, students can pursue a variety of courses depending on their choices, one can register for a social science course and end up graduating as an expert in  information technology, this is an added advantage,’ she advised.

From the same university, Steven Edward, a tutorial assistant in information technology, said that with the current technological development it was proper for every Tanzanian to find knowledge in IT, due to the fact that it was not only an enabler in many fields but a mainstay in communication and learning as well.

This view was shared by Geoffrey Bernard, who said that entrepreneurs should learn IT because it can reduce losses in concern with what they buy and what they sell.