Acknowledgement: SARIMA would like to thank the Malawi National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) for drafting this country profile.
Malawi has 70 Research Institutions at the time of drafting this profile, and 50 of these institutions have one or more research officers.
Research Funding in Malawi
Research funding in Malawi comes from the national Government, local industry, and foreign funders, with most of the biomedical research funded by foreign funders.
The funding focus of foreign funders has tended to be largely driven by the different development partners’ needs rather than the local health research agenda. The Malawian Government, through the National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) and the Ministry of Health, is now providing small grants from the Health Systems Operations Research Grant Scheme which was launched in January 2021. The operationalization of the Science and Technology Fund, an instrument for funding activities aligned with the national research agenda, is expected to drive a paradigm shift in research funding in Malawi.
There is little to no research funding flowing from the local business sector to the research community, perhaps partly due to a lack of meaningful public-private partnerships between academia and industry. In fact, the NCST is currently unaware of any industry-funded research taking place at research institutions. The NCST is yet to conduct a business research and development survey to ascertain progress against an established 2010 baseline.
Initiatives and projects aimed at strengthening research and innovation management?
Data collected by the NCST and the National Planning Commission (NPC) to map research project activities in Malawi identified 320 projects at Higher Education Institutions, some ongoing since 2015. Further information on these projects and subsequent assessment and evaluation would be required to ascertain how many are locally funded, project progress, and any contribution towards strengthening research and/or innovation management in Malawi.
There are some initiatives that have transformed a number of Public Universities through the construction of laboratory facilities in science faculties which have gone on to become new centres of learning. Other initiatives have focused on capacity building and training of research fellows at Masters and PhD levels.
Some of the noteworthy initiatives that have benefited the Malawi research management community include:
The Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) funded by the IDRC/NRF/SIDA/GIZ and with technical support from SARIMA, the initiative was and aimed at strengthening research and innovation management in Malawi.
Projects funded by the UNDP through their Business Growth Accelerator Initiative, the World Bank has funded projects through their Higher Education Science and Technology (HEST) initiative, including the Agriculture Productivity Programme for Southern Africa (APPSA) and Skills Development Project; The Wellcome Trust’s Health Research Strengthening Initiative, The UK’s FDCO (then DFID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded an online e-learning project, the IHE Delft Global Sanitation Graduate School, to provide online training for students at Masters, PG Diploma and Certificate level.
These initiatives and projects contribute to capacity building in higher education in Malawi and serve to prepare the participants to support research and innovation management.
Policies, frameworks and legislation that impact research and or innovation activities in Malawi
Some of the key policies and legislation that impact research and innovation management in Malawi and hopefully contributes towards achieving an effective innovation ecosystem are listed below:
- Science and Technology Act
- Science and Technology Policy
- Intellectual Property Policy
- ICT Policy
- The Communications Act
- Malawi Data Protection and Privacy Bill
- Malawi Growth and Development Strategy 3 (2017-2022)
- Intellectual Property Policy (2019)
The following are new policies and legislations that should contribute towards more effective support for research and innovation management in Malawi:
Malawi 2063 (MW2063) replaces Vision 2020 which expired in December 2020. The Malawi 2063 aims to transform Malawi into a wealthy and self-reliant industrialized ‘upper-middle-income country’ by the year 2063.
Malawi Growth & Development Strategies (MGDS) provides a single reference document for policymakers on the social and economic growth and development priorities. It also provides for infrastructure development as one of its themes. The goal of MGDS is to have a well-developed and affordable and efficient telecommunication system on and development priorities.
National ICT for Development Policy, adopted in 2005 to develop the ICT sector and promote the development and use of ICTS. The policy:
- Focuses on strategic ICT leadership, Community access to ICT’s and responsive ICT legal and regulatory framework
- Commitment to universal access, rural connectivity and liberalisation of the private sector involvement
Vision 2020 set the conceptual parameters for a conducive environment for subsequent policies including national ICT Policy
Malawi government initiatives looking at strengthening research and innovation
Below is a list of some of the initiatives being championed by the NCST for on-demand implementation by stakeholders.
- Conducting periodical training in research proposal writing for stakeholders
- Conducting periodical training in grant proposal writing for stakeholders
- Conducting periodical training in writing for publishing/academic writing
- Conducting training for Research Ethics Committees and Secretariat
- Conducting training at tertiary institutions on setting up research ethics committees
Challenges in research and innovation management
While the main challenge is insufficient funding to support capacity development initiatives, other challenges include:
- Lack of skilled human resources
- Lack of appropriate research and grant management systems and processes
- Need for improved coordination across various stakeholders