The University of Zimbabwe’s (UZ) nanotechnology department has developed a highly effective lotion for albinos, but is failing to patent and commercialise it due to lack of funds.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
This was disclosed by Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) chief executive officer, Fredrick Mandizvidza, when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education on Monday.
“UZ has a nanotechnology department, which has advanced inventions and they are producing albino cream, which they are failing to patent and commercialise due to lack of funds,” he said, adding the department required about $5 million to operate efficiently.
At the moment, it is making do with a paltry allocation of about $150 000 from Treasury.
“We are trying to assist them (UZ) with securing of funds for patenting the cream, and the department also needs specialised equipment for analysing data.”
Mandizvidza said the department had taken its samples to South Africa for analysis.
Acting committee chairperson, Paradzai Chakona accused Zimdef of misplaced priorities, spending $7 million on tuition fees for students on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) programme instead of funding institutions already with qualified scientists like the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC), which were struggling financially to come up with researches.
“Did the parents say that they did not have money to pay fees? You also said some university departments doing sciences were closing because of lack of students and yet we have students, who have 10 points that are refused entry into programmes such as medicine.
“There is zero investment in SIRDC, and we have an institution with already qualified scientists neglected in preference to paying $7 million fees for high school students. Maybe half of that amount could have gone to finance research at SIRDC,” Chakona said.
In response, Mandizvidza said: “The policy direction in terms of which areas are to be funded is the preserve of the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry in terms of the Zimdef Act. It is the minister, who defines the programmes to be funded. SIRDC is also not part of the Higher Education ministry, it is under the Office of the President and Cabinet.”