Speech: The 2013 Au-Twas Young Scientist National Award

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Speech Delivered By The Director General, National Commission For Science And Technology, Anthony Muyepa-Phiri At The Award Presentation Ceremony Of The 2013 Au-Twas Young Scientist National Award, Little Theatre, Chancellor College, Zomba, Friday 29 November, 2013.

Salutations

  • The Guest of Honour, Dr. Lucious Kanyumba, Minister of Education, Science and Technology;
  • Mr. Patrick Kabambe, Principal Secretary responsible for Higher Education
  • Professor Sosten Chiotha, Board Chairperson, National Commission for Science and Technology
  • Professor Chris Kamlongera, Principal, Chancellor College
  • Professor Samson Sajidu, Dean of Science;
  • Dr. Cosmo Ngongondo, the 2013 AU-TWAS Recipient
  • Deans of Faculties
  • Heads of Departments
  • Distinguished invited guests;
  • Members of the press;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let me join the Director of Ceremony in extending a special welcome to you all, and to thank you for being with us this afternoon. I would particularly like to thank you, Honourable Minister, for your presence, we feel greatly honored that you found it necessary to be part of this important gathering today, especially in view of the fact that you are relatively new in the Ministry and therefore a lot of assignments that require your attention.  Your presence therefore, Honourable Minister, reaffirms the political will that we cherish so much in the promotion of science, technology and innovation in the country.

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here this morning to celebrate the achievements that our young researchers continue to register in the field of science and technology.

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to briefly talk about the National Commission for Science and Technology and also share with you a few of our programmes. The Commission was established by an Act of Parliament, as an advisory body to government and all stakeholders on matters of science, technology and innovation. While the Act that established the Commission was passed in 2003, but we became operational as an institution, just as recently as 2010. We envision ourselves as a lead institution in the advancement of science, technology and innovation with a mandate to coordinate, promote support, and to some extent regulate matters pertaining to science, technology and innovation in the country.

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, in pursuance of its mandate, the Commission implements a number of activities that have a bearing on research and development as well as the inculcation of a science and technology culture. Honourable Minister, before I go into the business of the gist of the business of the day, allow me therefore to share with the audience a few of our programmes:-

  • We have the national research and dissemination conference which is held every two years, which affords researchers and technologists to interact and share their achievement in the area of science and technology, besides promoting beneficial networks.
  • Besides coming up with priority research areas, the Commission also supports the implementation of some research programmes, like the Confined Field Trials on bt-cotton currently underway at Bunda Campus of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR)
  • We have supported capacity building programmes, and through this we have supported students to do their first degrees, masters and even PhD especially in the area of health. This is besides supporting specialized training that has taken place at various constituent colleges of the University of Malawi, as well as Mzuzu University among other institutions.
  • For the first time the Commission in collaboration with the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, initiated  the National Science and Technology Fair, and through this we afford the researchers to interact with the industry.
  • The Commission also conducts needs assessment exercises of research and development institutions so that it implements activities that are responsive both to society and the needs of the S&T community.
  • With reference to the needs assessment, the Commission among other key issues found that there is inadequate awareness among researchers on the benefits of intellectual property and how they can exploit the same, this lack of awareness, Honourable Minister not only is it disadvantageous to the research institutions, but above ALL there is an attendant inability by the researchers, technologists, as well as innovators to exploit products of their intellect. Am therefore pleased to report that, just this month,  we had a successful training of trainers workshop on intellectual property which drew participants from all constituent colleges of the University of Malawi; Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources as well as Mzuzu University

Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, these were just but a ew of the programmes we are implementing. Let me now turn to the African Union and the Academy of sciences for the developing world commonly referred to as the AU-TWAS competition, which is the main business of the day. This is another annual competition managed by the National Commission for Science and Technology. The AU –TWAS Young Scientist National Award is one of the three categories under the African Union Scientific Awards Programme which are:-

  1. African Union, Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (AU-TWAS) Young Scientist National Award which is competed for by Malawians who are below the age of 40 years and is administered nationally by the National Commission for Science and Technology, the prize money of which is USD5,000 and that’s the one we have awarded our distinguished researcher, today; 
  1. African Union Women Scientist Regional Award which is competed for by women in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and this is administered  by SADC, the prize money of which is USD20,000 ; 
  1. African Union Scientific Award, which accommodates all the African Scientists regardless of sex and age limit and is administered by the African Union Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a prize money of USD100,000.

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, the award specifically aims at:

  • celebrating the achievements of African scientists on national, regional and continental        levels;
  • promoting efforts to transform scientific research into entrepreneurship;
  • creating research centres of excellence; and
  • raising the strategic profile of science, technology and innovation as well as building a scientific culture amongst African citizens.

Honourable Minister, Ladies and gentlemen, the AU-TWAS Young Scientist awardee, Dr. Cosmo Ngongondo, we have just decorated today is the 8th recipient of the award. Our Guest of Honour, you may wish to know that the Dean for the Faculty of Science, Professor Samson Sajidu, our host today is also a recipient of this prestigious award and that was way in 2010.

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, while we continue doing well under the Young Scientist National Award, we have not produced a single winner in the other two categories, thus the African Union Women Scientist Regional Award and the African Union Scientific Award, which attract cash prizes of USD20,000 and USD100,000 respectively. Is it that our scientists do not value the recognition at that level? The Commission is in therefore in the process of exploring innovative ways of encouraging our scientists, not only to take part but to win such regional and continental awards.

Honourable Minister, Principal Secretary responsible for Higher Education,  Board Chairperson of the Commission, the Principal (our host), the Dean o Science, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen;

– I thank you for your attention-

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