Discussions on the development of a regional science, technology and innovation policy for East African Community (EAC) kicked off in Kigali on Thursday, with stakeholders pushing for faster consultations to have the policy in place.
In Kigali, members of the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), National Council for Science and Technology (NCST), and other participants from the region, convened at Park In by Radisson Blu for deliberations aimed at establishing the STI Policy.
It is a policy that many participants believe would create an enabling environment for increased investments in areas of science, technology and innovation, as well as support socio-economic development and regional integration.
Officiating at the National Stakeholders’ Consultation Workshop, Olivier Nduhungirehe, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community, emphasised that the national discussions would determine the success of the policy implementation.
“This is an important workshop. The government recognises science, technology and innovation as priority components. The discussions that will be held here will determine the success of the implementation,” he noted.
Rwanda targets to become a knowledge-based economy, and Nduhungirehe said that it is through having the right policies that the country can achieve its economic aspirations.
He also mentioned that the three components are critical and that the government strongly believes are the driving forces for different sectors, including agriculture, health and infrastructure.
In 2007, EASTECO was established and is currently hosted in Rwanda, coordinating and promoting the development, management and application of science and technology in the region.
The development of the policy on science and technology is one of the tasks that the commission had.
According to Gertrude Ngabirano, the executive secretary of EASTECO, consultations leading up to the development of STI policy in the region kicked off this year, and the commission will hold a series of workshops in the course of the year.
“We started from bottom-up because this is a policy that we want to be owned by people so that it can contribute toward improving their lives. We don’t want a top-down policy that will just be on the shelf,” she told The New Times on the sidelines of the workshop.
The EAC STI Policy, she added, will inform national policies for the six EAC member countries, development plans, and ultimately enhance cooperation, among members.
Ngabirano also highlighted that current investments in science and technology are insufficient, which when the environment is conducive, would significantly increase.
The regional policy will be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024, as well as the EAC Vision 2050.
Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, one of the policy experts, indicated that, while many countries in the region have enacted laws and developed STI policies, the implementation has been problematic because of lack of adequate funding.
In Rwanda, to bridge the funding gap, the NCST is currently developing the National Research and Innovation Fund. It is a fund that will not only promote the implementation of science and technology policy, but also promote research and development, officials said.