Limpopo development plan receives major boost
THE agreement signed between the Limpopo government and Unisa will bring expertise and fresh ideas needed to boost the provincial development plan, fast-track its industrial development strategy and create jobs.
This is according to Economic Development MEC Seaparo Sekoati. He says the three-year deal will also produce groundbreaking research to support the government, develop skills and inform policy.
Speaking to African Times after the singing of a Research Collaborative Memorandum of Understanding between the provincial government and the continent’s biggest university in Polokwane on Monday, Sekoati described the agreement as a game changer in Premier Stan Mathabatha’s quest to develop Limpopo.
The ceremony was attended by several dignitaries including members of the provincial executive, senior government officials and Unisa Vice Chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya.
These include Treasury MEC Rob Tooley, Education MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe, Limpopo Government Director General Nape Nchabeleng, Unisa Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Somadona Fikeni and his colleague Professor Lesiba Teffo.
“The partnership will obviously inform and give content to some of the ideas that we actually have as a province, but as well to make sure that as we expand some of our programmes, just the implementation will go a long way in changing people’s lives,” says Sekoati, who represented Premier Mathabatha at the signing ceremony.
“I have given examples that we have an industrial path that we have chosen as a province. For us to be able to follow that path, it means that it will not just be something that is automatic. We are going to need ideas; we are going to need expertise; we are going to need research work that is going to go with that. And that is going to strengthen what we are already doing and the general populace will be able to benefit out of the successful implementation of the programmes that we will be setting up in the province.”
In terms of the MOU, both parties will co-operate in the following research areas:
· Government priorities and Limpopo Development Plan targets;
· Provincial Fiscal Policy Reforms;
· The impact of government spending on the local economy, employment and poverty; · Cost-effective government procurement towards the promotion of value for money; · The effectiveness of government departments, public entities and municipal service delivery models;
· Skills development; · Investment attractiveness including innovative ways for public-private partnership; · Scarce resource beneficiation · Gender, youth and women matters;
· Environmental and climate change.
Sekoati says these identified programmes may be broadened in future or others added.
Professor Makhanya says the relationship is significant because it moves the two parties “from just theorising about the work of our communities to being there within communities”.
He says the agreement involves the Limpopo government getting direct support from Unisa, the 135-year-old university which boasts 300 000 students from all over the world.
“The university, because we have researchers, is going to be digging into these particular issues so that by the time the provincial government moves into policy framework it would be policy that is well grounded from the sources. And by the time they talk about delivering the work; we would be knowing that we are dealing with reality on the ground rather than theorising about it,” says Prof Makhanya.
He adds that a joint implementation team has already been established to fasttrack the project.
“The partnership is for three years, renewal, which means we are looking at a long haul rather than just a short term. As we sit here right now our teams that we brought here are going to be working with government officials to put in place implementation plan. So, it’s not just the memorandum that has been signed, we move beyond to the implementation stage, which means beyond this, there is something practical.”
Makhanya says he hopes that researchers will take advantage of the agreement, the first of its kind, to conduct more research.
“That’s one of the things that I have always seen as a weakness where people do research because they like it. Now here, we will be doing research because it matters from the side of the communities.”
He added that “this is the first for the university.”
“The one that we have, which is in its early stages of inception, is with the KZN government where it has not really evolved to this level but there is work that is underway also from their own development plan as a province. The advantage in doing this type of work is that it’s going to be giving us an opportunity of understanding how we can go back and also roll that one out.”
JOINING FORCES: Limpopo Economic Development MEC Seaparo Senator and Unisa Vice Chancellor Prof Mandla Makhanya.
Limpopo Education MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe, and his Treasury counterpart Rob Tooley at the MOU signing ceremony in Polokwane this week