“Harnessing of the regions’ innovation potential can only be achieved if strong partnerships between the academic and the public and private sectors are enhanced,” he said.
He spoke of an urgent need to redesign the training curriculum so that education and training systems are able to churn out graduates who are creative, innovative and entrepreneurial.
“Such graduates will be able to expand employment opportunities where possible by creating small and medium enterprises for self-employment and for employing others,” he added.
Also speaking was Rwanda’s Minister of Education, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba who was the chief guest to represent President Kagame.
He said there is need for private sector investments in education so as to boost innovation in the sector.
There is need to borrow a leaf from other economies…emerging economies have increasingly recognized the need for new technology and innovation which are critical elements for social economic development, Lwakabamba said.
He called for new strategies that would enable higher education to effectively contribute to building diversity so as to meet the development challenges.
Felix Mosha, the Chairperson of the East African Business Council, said EAC cannot achieve its desired structural transformation with its present skills situation.
According to Mosha, the situation now calls for readiness of the region in terms of efficiency and effective completion of various value chains where there is competitive and comparative advantage.
Emphasis,he said, should be put on innovation that takes account of the multidimensional factors which must guide new trajectory for skills development in East Africa.
In this area of skills development and harnessing innovation, he added, EAC must master the challenges of balancing the forces of public and private enterprise in a manner that does not stifle the collective efforts of all.
The EAC Secretary General Amb. Richard Sezibera called for sharing of technology skills across the region.
“We will not achieve much if we don’t allow free flow of these skills across the region,” he said, urging institutions of higher learning to embrace research and innovation as a driving force in the developed world.
Skills situation show that that in 2006, there were only 35 research and development centers in Africa compared to 861 centers in North America, 655 in Asia, 1556 in Europe.
Sezibera said if the region is to compete, there is need to look at and narrow the gap between Africa and Europe.
He decried the low levels of expenditure on research, noting that despite the remarkable skills gaps, the region is spending less than 1 percent on research innovation compared to 2 percent in Europe, 2.6 percent in USA and 3.4 percent in Japan.
“We have the biggest gap yet spending the least to try and close this gap. We can’t achieve much in our endeavors unless we invest in education and skills development,” he said.
“Part of our poor performance in terms of spending is because of low participation of private sector in financing higher education. We have 720,000 students across east Africa enrolled in about 334 higher education institutions, compared to the 160,000 in the 1990s so we have come a very long way but we still have a long way to go.”
The Executive Secretary of the (IUCEA), Prof. Mayunga Nkunya, said more than 250 delegates from EAC partner states are attending the two-day forum.
Concurrently during the forum, over 30 higher education institutions, private sector institutions, government institutions and other stakeholders from the partner states exhibit their products and programs.
The forum is jointly organized by IUCEA, East African Business Council (EABC) and East African Development Bank (EADB) under the theme: “Harnessing East Africa’s Innovation Potential”.
East African News Agency
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN