17 September 2012

Kenya: Nation Poised for Major Science Commitment

Nairobi — Kenya will aim to quadruple its investment in science from 0.48 per cent to two per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) if a new policy bill is passed by parliament later this year.

In July, Kenya's cabinet approved the funding hike in the draft science, technology and innovation (STI) policy bill to accelerate economic growth towards becoming a middle-income country by the year 2030.

The draft acknowledges that integrating STI in national development strategies cannot be achieved without increasing funding to the sector.

"It is a big victory for STI when the government approves not just what we had asked for - one per cent - but raised it to two per cent [of GDP]," Margaret Kamar, Kenya's minister for higher education, science and technology, said at the Africa Science Journalists Conference in Kenya last month (20-24 August).

Kamar said the extra funding would start next July (2013) if parliament approves the budget.

"Then the treasury will be obliged by law to devote two per cent of GDP to the STI sector," said Kamar.

Currently, Kenya commits only 0.48 percent of GDP to science, which is below the one per cent target agreed by African heads of states at a meeting in Addis Ababa in 2006. Only South Africa has made a substantial progress toward that, with funding for research and development (R&D) standing at around 0.9 per cent.

Shaukat Abdulrazak, head of Kenya's National Council for Science and Technology (NCST), told SciDev.Net: "It can be practical with good political will. I think one per cent is possible. In the long term two per cent is practical too; we have no option if we are to attain Vision 2030 [Kenya's development blueprint], and be globally competitive.

"We have started gradually with limited resources, so funding will boost and speed up development in the STI sector. If we move from 0.48 to two per cent in two years, that would be great."

The move will reduce dependence on donor funding and help set the national R&D and STI agenda, Abdulrazak said.

He added that the bill will also help strengthen university research, which is currently underfunded; enhance capacity for postgraduate and postdoctoral training; and promote partnership with the private sector.

The bill will be scrutinised by the parliamentary committee on education, science and technology, which may suggest amendments, before it is sent to parliament for debate.

Link to draft policy

Copyright © 2012 SciDev.Net. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.