The Malawi Industrial Research and Technology Development Centre (Mirtdc) says there is need to foster science and technology, for Malawi to become an economic star performer as was the case between 2005 and 2009.
During the time, the economy, according to available figures, grew at an average of 7.5 percent per annum.
Growth peaked at 9.8 percent in 2008, second to oil-rich Qatar, but in 2010, it began to decelerate, with last year  the country registering a tepid 1.8 percent growth.
Several reasons have been advanced regarding the cause of downcast economic growth and development.
But Mirtdc, the country’s industry and technology hub, thinks one of the reasons is the lukewarm approach the country has adopted towards science, technology and innovation.
“We appear to believe, as a country, that as long as the market is allowed to regulate economic activities, we will achieve economic growth and thus economic development. Economic history of the world, especially of the developed countries does not support this conclusion,” argued Mirtdc director general Christopher Guta in an interview, citing Germany which, in 1900s also promoted science, technology and innovation enhancing it with high allocation of public resources.
Guta said then, the universities and other centres of education and training were the central point of this investment as well as public research and technology development organisations.
“It is thus, myopic to believe that Malawi can develop simply by use of technology that market offer to us through trade and investment. We need the capacity and capability to absorb the technology by unpacking it and making it our own through structured means of national learning and innovation. This is not the case at the moment,” he said.
He argued that there is need for leadership and championing for science, technology and innovation with right linkages between government, businesses and organisations that form Malawi’s knowledge infrastructure of which the universities and public research institutions are a critical part.
Guta observed that it is when Malawi nurtures this connectivity that it can promote the emergence of new economic activities which are the basis for rapid economic growth and development.
Even the second Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II) puts education, science and technology as a priority sector that could enhance economic growth and development.
It says the expected outcomes are a well-coordinated science and technology generation and dissemination framework and improved research and development.
The five-year strategy says to achieve this, the key areas include establishing a national science and technology commission and the Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must), which are in place, strengthening the capacity of research, science and technology institutions, generating and disseminating appropriate technologies through public-private partnerships and developing and commercialising science and technology in areas identified to contribute significantly to socio-economic development.
The strategy also targets to promote development and utilisation of indigenous technology and establishing research funding mechanisms that will promote research by institutions.
Meanwhile, Malawi government has announced that Must at Ndata in Thyolo is expected to open in September this year to assist Malawi achieve a quantum leap in research, transmission and application of science and technology to bridge the gap between Africa and the industrialised world.
Ben Kaluwa, an economics professor at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said development of science and technology is critical for the economic progress of any country.
“Malawi today is a poor nation with very low productivity. As such, economic development through advancements in science and technology in Malawi would surely lead to the robust economic growth,” he said.
Experts argue that for Malawi to compete on the global economy, it needs to enhance the application and management of science and technology.