ZAMBIA: Sixth national development plan launched

Zambia has launched an ambitious five-year national development plan, with a focus on higher education and science aimed at improving access to university education and expanding science and research activities.

The 2011-2015 Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) was launched by Zambian President Rupiah Banda on 4 February.

It tackles the higher education, science and information and communication technology (ICT) sectors, while also impacting on the energy and manufacturing sectors.

The plan aims to transform Zambia into a middle-income country by 2030. Among its targets are to reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty from 37% in 2006 to about 29% in 2015, and to reduce rural poverty from 77% to 50%.

At the launch, Banda mandated the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning [] to ensure that the blueprint is translated into all of the country's indigenous languages, so that it gets buy-in from the majority of Zambians. He said the new initiative would be funded by government, donor funds and a series of loans.

One of the plan's stated objective is: "To increase access to, participation and equity in the provision of quality university education." It lists the strategies to achieve this as being to:

* Promote private sector participation at university level.
* Establish a mechanism for regulating university education especially in terms of quality assurance.
* Provide alternative modes of university education delivery including ICT.
* Enhance the quality of university education and its relevance to needs of the economy.
* Establish a student loan scheme system.
* Increase participation and improve facilities.

Regarding science development, the plan names three main objectives, to: develop medical, agricultural, manufacturing, energy and pharmaceutical technologies; promote the commercialisation of innovations and research; and improve and develop infrastructure capacity for research.

Strategies to achieve this will include developing medicines and technologies for addressing priority diseases and conditions, developing processing technologies for agro-produce and wild foods, and preserving genetic resources for indigenous knowledge systems.

Under the five-year programme, efforts will be made to establish technology demonstration and piloting facilities, the plan says. There will also be a focus on rehabilitating and developing infrastructure for research and development, as well as establishing a specialised mini-pilot pharmaceutical plan.

The government said it would facilitate training programmes for researchers, while encouraging exchange programmes and joint research with scientific experts.

Regarding ICT the plan's objective is to develop and maintain ICT and meteorology infrastructure. This will be done through creating a national ICT infrastructure development policy. The national fibre optic network will be expanded, and ICT and climate change research centres would be established.

Zambia has many good plans but the problem is implementation. Many news articles about Zambia refer to what is going to happen. It is rare to read about what has already been achieved. I hope things change.

Yabe John