East Africa 'Not Investing Enough in Innovation'

Arusha — The East African Community (EAC) says member states have not been investing enough in innovation and skills development.

EAC secretary-general Liberat Mfumukeko said yesterday that the region has not allocated adequate funds to nurture talents that will drive the technological revolution and industrial development.

"The EAC is deemed to be the fastest-growing bloc in the world. But we are very far behind in grooming talents," he told the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS).

He, however, added that the regional body has lately engaged some local universities in providing specialised and high tech training to the young innovators.

Mr Mfumukeko said the process was largely funded by development partners as was the creation of centres of excellence, now spread out across the six-nation bloc.

"We need to invest enough in innovation to support our genius young people heavily with skills to drive our industrialisation agenda through the relevant technologies."

The summit has been organised by the EAC Secretariat in collaboration with the UN Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) and the East African Business Council (EABC).

It is taking place alongside with a technology exhibition by firms and innovators from around the region. The exhibition is aimed to showcase the relevant industrial technologies.

These include emerging technologies which characterise the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

Dr Vimal Shah, the chairman of Kenya-based Bidco Africa, challenged the EAC partner states to brace up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution through digitalisation.

"A lot of things have gone digital. No more filling of forms at the airports or borders," he told businesspeople, innovators, CEOs and government officials at the well attended summit at EAC headquarters.

Dr Shah added there was increased efficiency in industrial production in the developed countries because a lot of processes have been automated.

However, he challenged the policy makers to ensure that innovators were accessed to finance and credits to enable them embrace the advanced technologies.

GMIS and the two-day exhibition is themed: "Advanced Industrialization in East Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for the Fourth Industrial Revolution".

Co-organisers include the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and the East African Science and Technology Commission (Easteco), a Kigali-based institution of the EAC.

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