Research & Development to propel attainment of SDGs
Sam Matema Herald Correspondent
IN this fast paced environment that is replete with volatilities, uncertainties, complexities and ambiguities, you can only stay the course and remain relevant if the demands of the day are met with the urgency of the moment and the relevance and precision of our time alive to the five pillars (5Ps) of the SDGs, that is people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.
Those that have invested in Research and Development (R&D) are always ahead of the pack, they set the pace and reap the benefits.
They even set the ground rules.
R&D intersect with SDGs in more ways than one, and has a strong bearing on their attainment or lack thereof.
We are able to glean into the future through science and technology via research. Comparative and competitive advantages that reside in certain jurisdictions and economies are born out of R&D.
At the advent of the Second Republic, Government was very deliberate in terms of its approach finding expression in the setting up of innovation hubs in tertiary institutions. This is in sympathy with world trends and what is obtaining in the developed world.
From the 17 SDGs, Goal number 17 is the anchor goal to achieve the other 16 SDGs.
SDG17 speaks to partnerships with the state, the private sector, non-state actors and individuals towards the realisation of the other 16 SDGs.
The existential threat confronting humanity is climate change and its impacts at both primary and secondary levels are so glaring.
The climate change impact cuts across sectors, agriculture, industry, commerce, energy, transport, education and human rights among others.
R&D becomes critical in terms of mitigation and adaptation to climate shocks.
There is a need to adopt new strategies to reduce the carbon footprint, and adapt to new ways of doing business so as to build resilience in the triple context of society, economy and the environment.
Zero hunger, zero poverty, clean water and sanitation, quality education, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, good health, innovation and economic growth, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, life below water, climate action, peace and justice are all sustainable development goals affected by R&D within the confines and context of social justice, economic justice and ecological justice.
The world population is exponentially growing and the population split is such that those aged below 40 years contribute 63.1 percent of the total world population while the 40 years and above make up the difference at 36.9 percent. The consumer tastes and preferences, from a consumer behaviour perspective, of these age groups are different and they keep changing at a very fast pace in the VUCA environment.
New products and services are required to meet the expectations of a fast changing eco-socio-political and environmental market. And to do that, that is only possible through R&D.
This research and development is advanced by people in an effort to take care of mother earth in our quest for peace and prosperity across the globe through partnerships.
If population growth is not managed in the context of resource availability that is given by mother earth, there is the risk of an environmental overshoot.
This speaks to a situation where the environment cannot produce enough to feed a population that is exponentially growing.
The ecological regenerative capacity is exceeded by human demand.
This can be occasioned by both natural and anthropogenic factors, and in both cases, R&D is our safety valve and escape route to food security, new innovations, sustainable cities and communities, modern health, clean water and sanitation, clean energy and effective climate action.
SDGs and R&D interface, interact and intersect at different levels and scale.
To realise the 16 SDGs through SDG17, it requires R&D to provide current and future solutions built around mitigation, adaptation and resilience.
Our agriculture, with its bearing on hunger and poverty calls for smart agriculture in light of the climate shocks that is visiting us.
As the population grows exponentially, as we are confronted with pandemics, climate wars, climate apartheid, decline in forest services, rapid urbanisation and decline in portable water the future as we work towards Agenda 2030 and Vision 2030, the realisation of SDGs is right at their intersection with R&D.
The Rubicon moment
As we stand on and stare the climate change precipice and all its attendant challenges and threats post COP28, we are at a defining moment, zero-hour moment, at a crossroads, where we need to make strategic choices, redefine, recalibrate, realign and reposition ourselves, adjust and adapt in sympathy to the opinions and prescriptions of R&D.
And the future of Zimbabwe under the direction, guidance and leadership of President Mnangagwa, is quite promising and inviting if what is coming from institutions of higher learning is some kind of ‘barometer’ of research and development perfection.
The threats and challenges that climate change has brought cut across sectors and that is exactly why Climate Action is one of the SDGs. The envelope that we allocate towards Climate change issues and the vote to R&D defines our destination with respect to Agenda 2030.
We are about to cross the Rubicon, and it takes every one of us, leaving no one and no place behind, for Agenda 2030 coinciding with Vision 2030, to crystallise into reality, and R&D anchored on SDG17 will be the key enabler.
If posterity is going to judge us as leaders and country, let it not be for our failure to invest enough in R&D. The future is Research and Development and Research and Development is the future!
*Sam Matema is the MP for Buhera Central Constituency