THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) has appealed for financial support from the private sector to turn its numerous scientific projects into viable enterprises for economic development.
In his remarks during the launch of a yoghurt manufacturing project last week, NUL Vice-Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao said the institute had up to 40 projects that needed financial support to become viable enterprises.
Dubbed, Sebabatso Yoghurt, the project was initiated by NUL’s Faculty of Agriculture with Metropolitan Lesotho injecting M700 000 to increase its production capacity from 25 litres per week to 200 litres per day.
Apart from the yoghurt project, the university developed a state-of-the-art chicken egg incubator in which the famous Pius the XII was successfully hatched.
This year, NUL was awarded a US$58 000 (about M758 692) prize for a research project on intestinal parasites for sheep and goats. The project sought to assess the effect of the parasites on sheep and goat farming – a sector which contributes millions to Lesotho’s economy through wool and mohair production.
The wool and mohair industry has been steadily growing over the years, generating revenue of M330 million in the 2014/16 financial year, up from M250 million in the 2014/15 financial year.
A biscuit production project using sorghum has also been developed by the institute, with a potential for commercialisation.
Added to that, one of the university’s graduates developed an award-winning pothole-detection innovation in a computer programming competition that was held by Vodacom Lesotho last year.
“The university has plus or minus 40 innovations and inventions that are waiting for funding so our people can enjoy the benefits of the investment,” Prof Mahao said, adding that the corporate sector should follow Metropolitan Lesotho’s lead in financing budding projects.
He said the university would soon open an incubation hub to market its scientific projects.
“I am pleased to say that the office of the vice-chancellor will in due course run through the Senate the invention and innovation hub concept where all of the creative and scientific works that have been generated by our scientists will get assisted in incubating and multiplying.
“It will position us to be able to go out to the business community and market ourselves in an aggressive way.”
Prof Mahao said their aim was to help Lesotho establish an innovative industrial base to reduce dependence on imports and the resultant capital flight.
“It is true that there is no country in the world that has developed by importing virtually everything it uses in its domestic economy, as we do in this country. We even import toothpicks,” he said.
“It is the money that we take out of the country to enhance the industrial developments of other countries. Our historical challenge is to keep that money circulating in the domestic economy to create opportunities of employment, and to enhance the fiscal viability of our economy.
“That is what challenges us as a scientific community; for the university to enter that space of innovation and invention.”