EAC roots for single STI policy

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THE East African Commission for Science and Technology will soon establish a single regional educational policy in the field as the regional bloc focuses on introducing the application of science and technology to promote social and economic development.

Permanent secretaries of ministries responsible for East African Community Affairs visited the commission’s headquarters in Kigali, Rwanda, where they analysed a five-year strategic plan and decided on short-term priorities for immediate implementation.

The Commission’s Communication Assistant, Mr Richard Irakoze told The ‘Daily News’ on phone from Kigali over the weekend that implementation of the plan would cost an estimated $22,085,000.

He added that the Kigali meeting also discussed how the amount would be raised through EAC partner states’ statutory contributions, private sector, development partners and other sources.

Head of delegation Ms Edith N. Mwanje, who is also the Permanent Secretary in the ministry responsible for EAC Affairs of Uganda said that it was time the Community introduced the use of science to improve production and create jobs for its young generation.

“We have picked critical areas … over the next five years – in areas such as agriculture, agro-processing, energy,e-health and Information & Communication Technology (ICT).

“We have looked at the strategic plan and discussed issues of funding … all in with the EAC agenda and we are going to make sure that all member states are working to introduce these and other innovations in all that we do,” Ms Mwanje said.

She also noted that there were challenges facing the bloc, saying each of the partner states were developing at different levels, with some held back for lack of adequate infrastructure while they were also governed by different regulations, but added that those could be ironed out.

“We have to change and take measures to introduce in science and technology in our development approaches … but we need adequate funding … to the tune of $22 million to be mobilized from within and from our partners … but each of the partner states will contribute equally,” she said, fielding questions from journalists.

Ms Mwanje expressed gratitude to the government of Rwanda for hosting EASTECO and for its willingness to provide land to enable the commission build its own head offices. She emphasized the need for EAC partner states to harmonise their activities and make science and technology a “key enabler of socio-economic development.”

EASTECO is a semi-autonomous institution within the EAC mandated to promote and coordinate development, management and application of science, technology and innovation in partner states.

EASTECO Executive Secretary Ms Gertrude Ngabirano said that devising a regional science, technology and innovation (STI) policy was among key priorities of the commission this year, adding that it was important for intellectual property rights to be given to persons over the creations of their minds. “This year, we will be working on a regional STI policy.

In the short run, for example, we will be working on putting in place a regional intellectual property rights policy. We will also be working on a regional knowledge management framework involving establishment of electronic data bases.

For example, recent research can be availed so that the public knows what research has been done and people who are interested can build on what is already in place,” said the executive secretary.

Ms Ngabirano said the commission’s work is in response to the fact that fewer of region’s students were enrolling into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) than those opting for other fields of study. STEM is more expensive, and there is a need to invest more in laboratories and other related science teaching facilities in the region.

Ms Ngabirano said the visit of the permanent secretaries was aimed at looking at planned EAC regional programmes for science, technology and innovation; and development of a regional policy for science, technology and innovation.

Tanzanian Ambassador to Burundi, Mr Ali Siwa who represented the permanent secretary for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation said that they have been going through the action plan for the whole region and after the meeting they felt it imperative to visit some areas so that they get something new and learn a good practice.

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