Government should fast-track review of the national policy for science and technology, research and innovation, and also increase the sector’s funding, senators have said.
This is part of the recommendations by members of the senatorial standing committee on social affairs contained in a report that will be presented to the Upper House on Monday. The report follows analysis of the science and research sector by senators, who also noted that research and innovation in the country is currently underfunded. Only 0.3 per cent of Rwanda’s annual GDP goes into funding research and innovation. The targeted spending for research and experimental development for African countries is one per cent of GDP as recommended by the African Union’s executive council in 2006.
The senators also say the national policy needs to be clear on who is in charge of coordinating research between the Ministry of Education and the National Commission of Science and Technology (NCST). They also called for establishment of a national fund for research and innovation.
Senator Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, a member of the senatorial committee on social affairs, said the country’s researchers should be well-catered for, right from education institutions, “where most of them work”. We should also create mechanisms for more and meaningful private sector participation in research and development.
“We can’t develop without doing research, and this has to be based on our education and how we take care of researchers who work hard to develop the country,” he said.
He added that the current national policy for science, technology, research and innovation should be revised to indicate clearly how the private sector can contribute in the areas of research and research funding.
“The current policy focuses on research done in schools, but doesn’t show how the private sector can be involved. Besides, the Government alone can’t fund the country’s research and development needs,” he said.
Senator Marie-Claire Mukasine said the policy review should show how to improve the welfare of researchers “so they can be motivated in their work”. “When you talk to different stakeholders, you realise that Rwanda still has a problem with research. Therefore, we need to provide more motivation to our researchers to stay in their positions and do their jobs,” she said.
“Researchers should be given a special status so they can be motivated enough to keep doing research and innovation,” she added. Apart from reviewing the national policy for science, research, and technological innovation and setting up a National Research Fund through which different research initiatives can be financed, the senators called for a national research and science day when different researchers would showcase their findings and innovations.