With a notable percentage of the young population under 25 years of age and about to enter the job market, economic development can be pursued by maximising the labourforce.
Makhtar Diop, the vice president of World Bank in the African region, said this yesterday in Kigali during the inaugural session of the forum on Higher Education for Science, Technology and Innovation.
The forum was convened by World Bank in partnership with the Government of Rwanda.
Diop said it was time to build and diversify for economic development as Africa was undergoing various transformations.
“Some African countries have met or are in the process of achieving MDG-related to primary level education and gender parity in education,” Diop said.
“Besides, universities in the continent still rely heavily on colonial curricula. However, it is time for Africa to take its rightful place in terms of job creation and improvement of lives.”
He also called for collaboration between institutions of higher learning and the private sector to ensure students learn to make the most out of what they have.
“Collaboration will help improve the quality and depth of what students learn. We need to link universities to the private sector,” Diop said.
“It is time we had more members of the private sector on university boards to get their contribution and have employers provide more industrial training and apprenticeships.”
He called for the number of African students in science and technology to be doubled in the next 10 years and commended Rwanda for a “tremendous success” in bridging the gender gap in education and other sectors.
Rwanda and technology
The Minister for Education, Dr Vincent Biruta, said government recognises the role and importance of science, technology and innovation in economic growth and prosperity of the country.
He said Rwanda’s Vision 2020 and the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy require strong commitment to technology and innovation to achieve.
“A knowledge-based economy such as we are in the process of creating to harness economic development will be made possible if we develop human capital in the various sectors through science and innovation to be more productive,” Dr Biruta said.
The minister said the development of a centre of excellence in ICT is proof of government’s commitment to fast-track development through technology and innovation.
Rwanda is also a founding member of the UbuntuNet Alliance for research and education networking. There has also been a partnership with Microsoft and other partners to improve the use of ICT in learning and development in schools, he added.
Dr Martial de-Paul Ikounga, the African Union commissioner of human resources, science and technology, called for synergy between the ministries of education of various countries to make the most out of limited resources.
He said plans were underway to set up a Pan-African University to look into the demands of continental education, to be a point of excellence and improve competitiveness of the continent.
Prof. Romain Murenzi, the executive director of the World Academy of Sciences, challenged African countries to invest more in research, saying it is a sure way to create knowledge.
“Africa has about 14 per cent of the world’s population yet it only accounts for 2.3 per cent of research population,” Prof. Murenzi said, adding that of the 40 countries that rank lowest in ICT development, 29 are in Africa.
“The solution to all this begins with developing policies that are related to the innovation ecosystem,” the academic said.