Current chair of PASET, H.E. President Kenyatta calls for increased investment for research and development in Africa through RSIF. He was speaking at icipe‘s 50th anniversary on 20 November 2020. Read more here
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said science and research are key to unlocking Kenya’s development potential especially in finding solutions to challenges slowing down the country’s progress.
The President, therefore, said the Government will continue implementing programmes aimed at nurturing its growing scientific talent pool so as to create wealth and expand employment opportunities for Kenyans.
President Kenyatta spoke today during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi.
In his pre-recorded video address, the Head of State applauded ICIPE for its prominent contribution to the growth of science and research in Africa over the last five decades.
“As this pioneering institution commemorates its 50 years of service, in partnership with governments across the continent, we note with appreciation the central role you have and continue to play, in insect research, plant health, animal health, environmental health, all aimed at bettering human health and welfare,” the President said.
He said Africa must continue to expand its investment in science and research for it to achieve the aspiration of becoming a prosperous and peaceful continent.
“Indeed, Africa will continue to rely on scientific organizations not only to address present and future development challenges, but also to provide the platform upon which we may be able to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the digital and the biological economic sectors,” he said.
The President praised ICIPE’s training programmes delivered through the African Regional Postgraduate Programme in Insect Science (ARPPIS) and the Dissertation Research Internship Programme (DRIP), saying the initiatives have helped to significantly increase the number of scientists and researchers in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Likewise, I note with appreciation that in 2008, ICIPE 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 central objective of this Fund is to train up to 1,000 doctoral level scientists annually from sub-Sahara countries in the various core fields of science,” he said.
President Kenyatta said Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the African Union Agenda 2063 both recognize the vital role played by science and scientific organizations like ICIPE in achieving developmental objectives.
With this knowledge, the President said his administration will continue working closely with scientific and research organizations as key development partners adding that the Kenyan Government had contributed more than Shs 200 million to the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RIF) of the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) where he is the current Chairperson.
“Our contribution in this regard is consistent with the Kenya Vision 2030, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Africa Union Agenda 2063,” he emphasized.
The Head of State assured that the Kenyan Government will continue rolling out progressive policies to promote science and innovation, not only as the 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.
The President noted that science and research institutions such as ICIPE are important partners in realizing Kenya’s development aspirations as outlined in Vision 2030 and Big 4 Agenda blueprints which he said are consistent with UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“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 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.
Cabinet Secretaries Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs) and Peter Munya (Agriculture) commended ICIPE for its scientific and research work which they said has been key in transforming the lives of many Africans.
CS Munya said ICIPE has been recognized globally for its research work, which has greatly helped farmers to improve productivity of their enterprises.
“This work has made ICIPE to be a household name in Africa, for it has contributed to providing solutions which are not harmful to animals, plants and human life,” the Agriculture CS said.
Other speakers included the Chairperson of ICIPE Governing Council Prof Bill Hansson and the organization’s Director General Dr Segenet Kelemu.
Click here to watch His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta speaking about RSIF.
Click here to watch President Uhuru Kenyatta’s full speech during the icipe@50 celebration.
Eusebius J. Mukhwana, PhD
Director General and CEO
Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA)
After decades of decline, African higher education is now arguably in a new era of revival. Initially, our higher education systems were set up using the colonial models of each country in the 1950s and 60s. This model which was largely funded by the Government became unsustainable and was struggling to fund and sustain itself. With the advent of liberalization, since the 1980s families and students took over the bigger role of funding higher education in Africa. This transition though painful, has started to bear fruits. Although many people argue that it has limited access to education by the poor and the disadvantaged populations as well as compromised quality. With the prevalence of knowledge economy discourse, national governments in Africa and their development partners have increasingly aligned higher education with poverty reduction plans and strategies. Further, research capacity has become a critical development issue; and widening participation to doctoral education is seen as an instrument for enhancing this capacity.
A Doctoral degree is the pinnacle of educational attainment and the most respected of all higher educational training. The degree certifies the holder as an independent researcher, an expert with extensive knowledge about the chosen field of study, and a professional with a wide range of transferable skills. As such, doctoral graduates have the capacity and capability to make important contributions to knowledge and drive change in society. Unfortunately, in Africa, the role of doctoral graduates in the country’s economic development has been minimal owing to a complex array of social-economic and political realities. But things are changing; and both the appreciation of their role and the number of doctoral students has been rising in many African countries over the last two decades.
Doctoral graduates represent accumulated human capital, which is a valuable human resource that is useful for making significant contributions to a country’s development. This usually occurs through their capability to enhance the knowledge of others, performing various roles that benefit society, applying acquired skills to research that solves society’s challenges, improving the performance of work colleagues and developing new and novel products. Africa has been slow in benefitting from doctoral graduates because of several challenges. These include:
- The Continent lacks good facilities and other resources for training doctoral students;
- Limited support and opportunities for doctoral graduates within the formal and largely informal sectors of our economy leading to underutilization of PhD graduates’ expertise;
- Poor supervision skills for doctoral students;
- Old, outdated and tortuous processes of managing the doctoral training programs; and
- Doctoral students that are studying, struggling to work and pay for their studies and families.
Research output in Africa remains quite low compared to the rest of the world. Most of the research done by African doctoral graduates is basic and largely academic; and does not benefit many societies. This has led to lower appreciation of these important members of our society. We need national strategies for promoting the work of doctoral students; and there is also increasing need for them to tap into national research priorities. In the absence of such priorities, many “shoot in the dark: thereby compromising their impacts and the usefulness of their research work.
Funding of doctoral research is also a major challenge in many countries in Africa. Often there is reliance on external donors, which means that research priorities may not be very well aligned to national needs and funding remains fragmented and for short periods. And funds even when available are scattered in different silos which are unknown and even unavailable to those in need. This has led to low uptake of funds available in government and even private agencies, leading to failure to tap into a rich pool of creative initiatives and research that could lead to economic transformation of the continent. There is an abysmal dearth of knowledge on how to use research findings by researchers in Africa to catalyze innovation and to make life easier or mitigate everyday life problems of poor rural and urban Africans. Related to this is the issue of Lack of protection of intellectual Property Rights. Most players in the Higher Education sector have no idea of how to get their products evaluated and secured through patents. Many of the students enrolled in post graduate (masters and doctoral) training do not complete their studies in time; leading to exceptionally low completion rates and high dropout rates. Studies by the Author in Kenya showed that only about 70% of master’s and 50% of doctoral students finish their studies at all in Kenya. Over 80% of these students complete after the stipulated time of two years (for masters) and three years (for doctorate). This situation is largely reproduced across many countries in Africa. These delays and high drop out rate has been attributed to student, supervision and university management issues that have been well discussed in another paper.
Several things can be done to improve the impact of doctoral training and Research in Africa.
- There is need to address issues that are causing high dropout rates and low completion rates for doctoral students at African universities. These include matching carefully students with their supervisors, minimizing bureaucracies in student management, better funding of students and establishing postgraduate student support centers;
- There is need for a paradigm shift from doing routine research for the sake of it – to more targeted research which addresses the needs of the communities. Research training and research studies should be strategic and aligned to the needs of the country;
- There is need align research to the needs of the private sector by enhancing the engagement of academia and industry, and also to the needs of governments. This ‘triple-helix’ model is critical for strengthening the profitability of knowledge leading to economic growth.
- Africa needs a research commercialization policy that will help in research uptake and ensure that research ideas move up the value chain and create wealth for the continent;
- Universities need to conduct research that informs policy, law and national dialogue in order to catalyze national development;
- There is need to coordinate policies and legislation to support research as well as strengthen Government-private sector linkages to support doctoral student funding for improved quality of training;
- Funding from international partners should be appraised to ensure that they address the local needs and is not tied to the priorities of other countries/funding bodies;
- The research must also get to the end user. There is need to device ways that can disseminate research to ensure that it reaches the end users. Universities should lead the way in using research outputs by directly engaging with communities. Each university needs to establish a knowledge transfer center which is easily accessible to the end users;
- As more resources are put in research, renown Professors should get more involved in research work, demonstrate academic leadership and mentor upcoming scholars;
- The commercialization of research and technology transfer needs support after publication. A lot of work needs to be done in publicity, patenting and copy writing;
- Linkages with TVET and Industry Institutions play a crucial role in producing practical human resource for the economy. Universities should work with TVET institutions and industry to support fabrication and commercialization of their research products;
These issues have led to their limited involvement in national development.
In response to the findings, three initiatives have been proposed to capitalize on the potential of PhD graduates. Firstly, it is vital for national and regional strategies for doctoral education to include a policy, plan, and budget. Secondly, support and opportunities for PhD graduates, need to be actualized through appropriate remuneration, engagement schemes and greater collaboration between PhD graduates and key stakeholder groups to foster participation; thirdly: it is critical to engage women to further their careers at the highest levels, in order to access a largely missing part of our population in science.
About the Author:
Dr. Eusebius J. Mukhwana is the Director General and CEO of the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA); and a stronger believer in the abilities of Africa to industrialize and create prosperity for all its people. This article was written as a contribution to the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund Weekly Newsletter