Tanzania — The 2013 Academia-Private Sector Partnership Forum organized by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), East African Business Council (EABC), East African Community (EAC) and East African Development Bank (EADB) held in Nairobi, Kenya 24 - 26 October 2013 resolved to establish regional research, innovation, and business incubator clusters, industrial attachment programmes for students and university staff, and academia attachment schemes for staff from industry in order to drive regional industrialization.
The Forum was addressed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who called for harmonisation of higher education and training systems in the region to allow young East Africans to study in a university of their choice. President Kenyatta further said the private sector should ensure that there is development of competent, skilled and enterprising human capital capable of meeting the sector's needs.
The academia-private sector partnership, he said, would unleash innovation and boost entrepreneurship skills among the young people across the region. "This means our graduates will leave university well equipped to spearhead our industrialisation; they will come out as job creators and not job seekers," he said in his speech read by Mr Phyllis Kandie, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of EAC Affairs, Commerce and Tourism.
The EAC Secretary General, Dr. Amb. Richard Sezibera said that dialogue between academia and private sector was critical for transforming the region into a knowledge based economy. "We are at historic junction in Africa's march for socio economic development" he said urging East Africa to seize the moment to lift millions of its citizens out of poverty.
Amb. Sezibera urged universities in EAC to offer scholarships to EAC students from other countries citing examples of Utalii College in Nairobi and Carnegie Mellon university in Rwanda who are already offering scholarship saying that this enhances regional integration and creates a brand of EAC Ambassadors.
Professor Mayunga Nkunya, the Executive Secretary of IUCEA noted that a framework had been developed to guide implementation of the forum resolutions. The forum, he added further resolved, "to promote and mainstream indigenous knowledge into the university curriculum, research and innovation, and create relevance skills for the current and future economies; to empower and support informal SMEs by linking them to the formal sector through support by academia research and innovation programmes; to promote science versus non-science based higher education on a 60%/40% ratio borrowing from the German higher education model where 64% of higher education institutions focus on skills development (universities of applied sciences); to establish discipline of specialized universities; to expand higher education enrolment as a strategy to transform East Africa into a knowledge economy; and to rank higher education institutions based on success and productivity" among other resolutions.
Mr.Vimal Shah, an industrialist and EABC Chairman noted that, "the private sector has for a long time lamented the paucity of right skills among workers especially graduates being churned by the local universities. This will come to an end if approaches to stimulate interaction between the private sector and academia are implemented in order to realise the desired results."
Industrialist Dr. Manu Chandaria, the Chairman of Comcraft Group of Companies and a board member of several organizations including universities in Kenya, urged the academia to appoint to their boards members from the private sector and vice versa as this would enhance relevance of the training programmes to current situation of the day.
He stated that the time had come for the blame game between academia and industry to stop but rather the two had committed to now work together for their mutual benefit. "it is only when we have graduates who can innovate and come up with entrepreneurial ideas that we will see massive growth of industries in EAC and consequently have more jobs for our unemployed youth", affirmed Dr. Chandaria.
Owora Richard Othieno,
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