President Kenyatta calls for Increased Investment for Research and Development in Africa

Pauline Achoka
25 Nov 2020 0

Speaking at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi on the 20 November 2020, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta applauded icipe for its prominent contribution to the growth of science and research in Africa over the last five decades. He noted with appreciation that in 2018, icipe, which is hosted by the Government of Kenya, was selected by African governments to run the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) of the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET).

The celebrations were also attended by Hon. Amb. Rachelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Hon. Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives who viewed the exhibition of icipe’s achievements and attended the celebration in-person along with members of the diplomatic core, and other icipe stakeholders.

Speaking specifically about RSIF, President Kenyatta in his video statement recalled that “The central objective of this fund is to train up to one thousand doctoral level scientists annually from Sub Saharan African countries in various core fields of science. This measure will also address the imbalance exhibited by our current 88 science researchers per million in sub-Saharan Africa, which compares very unfavourably with the average of 876 science researchers per million in North Africa and also the UK and US averages of 4000 per million.  Accordingly, I appeal for greatly enhanced investment in research and development in order to develop and inculcate a science culture and orientation in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

President Kenyatta noted that Kenya, through the Ministry of Education is the current chair of PASET and have thus far contributed more than USD 2 million to the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund. He said “Kenya’s contribution in this regard is consistent with Kenya’s Vision 2030, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063”.

The President said his administration has put in place an enabling policy framework to foster science and innovation – not only as an engine for economic growth, but also as a means of addressing enduring social inequalities. “We have made a commitment to invest up to 2% of our annual national budget in research and innovation, which is in line with our national development programmes,” he said.  “We will continuously improve our strategies to ensure that we continue to attract and nurture talent, harness the resources we have and create opportunities and jobs for our people”.

The President informed icipe stakeholders that science and research institutions such as icipe are important partners in realizing Kenya’s development aspirations. “Indeed, icipe and other similar organizations in Kenya have contributed essential technical skills and scientific knowledge that have proved invaluable to our national development. “These contributions have led to the creation of high quality jobs, especially for young graduates, increased foreign exchange earnings for the country and strengthened our connections, particularly in the field of academia and research, with the rest of world,” the President said.

As part of the celebrations, the President formally launched icipe’s Vision and Strategy for the period 2021 to 2025, which he described as bold and comprehensive noting that it will position the organization as a centre for discovery and provision of solutions. “As current problems are solved, new ones emerge, which require new responses”, he said. He challenged icipe to in the next 50 years herald seminal research work for the greater benefit not only of Africa, but of all mankind.

In conclusion, the President acknowledged the support from donors and partners and expressed the belief that multi-stakeholder partnerships will spur even greater heights of success.

The importance of international science partnership was echoed by Cabinet Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Amb. Rachelle Omamo. She spoke on the power of science to change the world, recalling the context of Covid-19 and climate change that is challenging food security and biodiversity. Commenting on the theme “Insects for Life” and the icipe anniversary plaque of a butterfly, she noted that the caterpillar transforming into a butterfly illustrates icipe’s own transformation since its founding by Kenyan scientist Thomas Odhiambo in 1970.  50 years ago, there were a handful of women scientists, but today women have embraced science and are able to take leadership of one of the world’s premium institutions.  She thanked and applauded Dr. Segenet Kelemu, the first female Director General of icipe and appreciated icipe’s role in growing young scientists and in particular African scientists. The transformational basis of science for development is not yet fully utilized and need to be further promoted.

She said she was challenged by icipe Director General stressing the need for more government cooperation and the idea that foreign policy also has to change as scientific research becomes a foreign policy pillar. She welcomed the idea of enhanced government cooperation with scientific institutions and expressed that she hoped to be able to work with icipe to promote science not only as a development tool, but a tool for peace and security and for transforming the lives of people.

The positive impact for food security was testified to by Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives. Hon. Peter Munya. He said icipe was a household name in Kenya and across Africa as it works closely with farmers, deploying science to find solutions for small holder farmers, enhancing productivity in a sustainable manner.

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