Rwanda has signed an agreement with the East African Community (EAC) to host the bloc’s regional science and technology commission, a new body meant to promote and coordinate technological activities within the five partner states.
The agreement was signed on Tuesday in Kigali by the EAC Secretary General Amb. Dr Richard Sezibera and Rwanda’s Foreign affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo.
Under the agreement, the operations of the commission are set to commence by July this year with a proposed annual budget of $ 1.8million that will be footed by the Secretariat and the partner states.
Speaking after the signing, Sezibera said for the region to compete globally, it was important to invest significantly in science and technology.
He said the EAC region is endowed with both human and natural resources that need an immediate transformation through innovations to help develop regional economies.
“Investment in science and technology is imperative for the region. Technology is key to the region’s potential, and we cannot compete globally without science and technology,” he said.
The commission will play an advisory role to the community in areas of research, and technology and facilitate technological innovations.
A report published in 2012 dubbed, Governance of Science and Technology in the EAC, by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Acode), indicates that lack of investment in science and technology was likely to impact negatively on the region’s economic development.
The report indicated that though under the African Union, African countries committed to allocate 1 per cent of their national budget to research and development, no EAC member state has yet hit the target.
Minister Mushikiwabo said Rwanda was ready to collaborate with other partner states to bring change in the region through the use of science and technology.
“We are committed to the promotion and coordination of the development, management and application of science and technology in partner states,” she said.
Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa, the Director-General of Science, Technology and Research at the Ministry of Education, said plans are underway to embark on capacity building in the partner states to enable economic development through science.
She said there is need to promote innovations, especially among the youth so as to favourably compete with other parts of the world.
A meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers in Bujumbura, Burundi in 2011 agreed that Rwanda should host the Science and Technology Commission while Burundi will host the East African Health Research Commission (EAHRC). Tanzania is set to host the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) .
Twenty-two personnel will be recruited to run the commission that will be based at Telecom House in Kigali. Article 103 of the EAC treaty recognises the significance of science and technology in the economic development of partner states.
The signing was witnessed by the Minister in charge of EAC affairs, Jacqueline Muhongayire, and other government officials.