27 November 2012

East Africa: EAC Science, Technology and Innovation Report Launched

Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) in collaboration with the ministry of education (Mineduc) is launching the inaugural report on the governance of science, technology and innovation in the East African Community (EAC). The report is the outcome of two years of work involving experts from the five EAC countries.

According to Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa, director general of ICT in the ministry, the 126-page report is the first major effort to track and assess progress on the implementation of the commitments by the EAC partner states to cooperate in the development and application of science, technology and innovation to address the challenges facing the partner states. She said that science, technology and innovation hold the promise of creating opportunities for all segments of the population.

"In particular innovation capabilities are a pre-requisite to the transformation of national economies as well as expanding economic and employment opportunities for young people. There are youngsters with innovative ideas but they lack exposure," she explained.

According to Godber Tumushabe, the executive director of ACODE and co-author of the report, the partner states of the EAC need to make strategic and comprehensive investments in STI if they are to build sustainable and competitive economies and social systems. "We did this research in order to improve public policies and their outcomes. As the EAC, no matter what we do, we'll never achieve sustainable development if we don't adopt science, technology and innocent as key to that end."

The report comes against the backdrop of major challenges such as slowdown in economic growth, increasing youth unemployment and the narrowing of economic opportunities exacerbated by the global economic crisis. It underscores the importance of governance and political leadership in accelerating the pace of science, technology and innovation in the community and calls upon the summit of the heads of state and government to take deliberate, time-bound and measurable actions to ensure full implementation of the EAC treaty commitments on STI. Among its many recommendations, the report calls upon the partner states to fast track establishment of the East African Science and technology commission (EASTECO), the body that is to spearhead the STI agenda of the community. The commission will have its headquarters in Kigali.

"Countries which don't know themselves never develop," said John Mugabe, a researcher from the university of Victoria and co-author of the report who added that it is a step towards self-discovery of the EAC states, which will enable them to start discovering the potential within their citizens. "We have to harness the potential from our people towards creating a knowledge-based economy for the region."

Though each of the EAC countries has tried to something about STI, mainly focusing on program design and establishing policies, the researchers are convinced that, through collaborate efforts, they can spend less and advance faster.

The report will be prepared every two years to report on the progress on the implementation of the commitments on science, technology and innovation made by the partner states under the treaty establishing the EAC and the EAC common market protocol.

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