The East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) was inaugurated in Kigali, onFriday November 13,2015, to promote and coordinate the development, management, and application of science technology and innovation to support regional integration and socio-economic development of the people in the region.
Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza, the Minister for East African Community (MINEAC), said EASTECO is important to the regional development and called for concerted efforts to support the commission achieve its objectives.
“The EAC believes that science and technology is a powerful tool to drive regional development but the EASTECO staff alone cannot achieve the goal. This bids all partner states to put science and technology at the centre of development strategies. I therefore call for partnership with the government, private, research and innovation institutions to ensure that this commission delivers to the best,” she said.
The launch of EASTECO was part of the sixth celebration of the EAC awareness week which kicked off November 9 under the theme: “Eight Years of Rwanda in the EAC: Deepening Regional Integration Agenda.”
The week is held annually as directed by the Council of Ministers in 2010 to raise awareness on EAC integration agenda.
Amb. Rugwabiza pledged Rwanda’s significant support to the commission and assured that, though hosted in Rwanda, EASTECO will strive to serve regional needs.
“Considering that two-third of the EAC population is under 30 years old, we shall make use of our energetic youth, put in place the right policies creating a good environment for the science and technology to realise the development we envisage,” she said.
Dr. Marie Christine Gasingirwa, the Director-General for Science, Research and Technology at the Ministry of Education, said the country is proud of hosting EASTECO and urged the commission to respond to regional needs through research and innovation.
“Let us develop science and technology in our systems without forgetting our indigenous knowledge and knowledge transfer across the region. EASTECO should nurture the culture of innovation to produce what we need and stop waiting for all that is good to come from outside the region,” she said.
Gertrude Ngabirano, the EASTECO Executive Secretary, said the commission will strive to unlock East Africa’s development potentials through science, technology, research and innovation.
Choice of Rwanda to host EASTECO
The EAC Council of Ministers decided in 2011 on Rwanda to host EASTECO, while Burundi and Tanzania were to host the East African Health Research Commission (EAHRC) and the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) respectively.
The EASTECO Executive Secretary, says the commission is working with stakeholders in the region to identify priorities in science and technology sector as a way to develop an effective strategic plan to guide the commission’s activities in the next five years.
“Rwanda’s commitments toward science and technology make it the perfect place to host the commission and we are committed to engage partner states in the functioning of the commission. The private sector and development partners will also be engaged and with all these hands, the commission will boost regional development,” she said.
Ngabirano urges regional states to increase the funding for science, technology and innovation to at least 2 per cent of the GDP as it is the case in most of the developed countries, saying that it currently stands at below 1 per cent among the EAC member states.
“EASTECO will work with Partner States, private sector and development partners to fund activities of the commission. We shall strengthen the existing national science, technology, ongoing activities and research centres of excellence to help them grow to the regional level but we should have a centre of excellence in at least each of the sectors of science and technology,” she added.
“As soon as we get all the stakeholders on board, we shall be able to start on formulation of science, technology and innovation policy by early next year, so that we respond to regional priorities.”
The Commission will also promote the participation of scientists from partner states in international scientific endeavors, and provide independent and authoritative advice, which will stimulate constructive dialogue among the scientific community.
Background of the EASTECO
The EASTECO was established by the fifth extra ordinary summit of the EAC Heads of State on June 18, 2007 in recognition of fundamental importance of collaboration in science and technology for economic development, as stated in article 103 of the Treaty establishing the East African Community.
However, the commission started operations in July, this year and it is one of the region’s institutions provided for under article 9 of the EAC Treaty.
Under the agreement signed early last year, between EAC and the government of Rwanda, the latter allocated the headquarters’ offices to EASTECO at Telecom House, Kacyiru in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.
At the signing of the agreement, EAC Secretary General Dr. Richard Sezibera said the EAC Council of Ministers chose Rwanda in 2011 to host EASTECO because of the country’s leading commitment to the science and technology promotion in the region, adding he was optimistic that the commission will succeed to promote the region’s competitiveness in the rapidly changing world.
The objective of EASTECO is to be the leader in the promotion and co-ordination of the development and application of science and technology for sustainable socio-economic development in partner states.
The mission of EASTECO is to promote and coordinate the development , management and application of Science,Technology and Innovation in the Partner States.
The immediate activities for the commission include development of regional STI policy, development of a five-year strategic plan, establishment of Regional Technology and Innovation centres, establishment of partnerships with relevant regional and international organisations.
EASTECO will work in collaboration with relevant institutions from the partner states including the ministries responsible for science and technology, the national science and technology commissions and councils, universities, research institutions, civil society, and the private sector, among others.
In April, this year, the 31st meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers appointed Gertrude Ngabirano as the EASTECO Executive Secretary, Saidi Kibeya as the Deputy Executive Secretary while Odeth Bateta and Methuselah Mbajo were appointed as Administrator and Accountant respectively.
According to Ngabirano, the four recruited EASTECO staff members have reported in Kigali and the recruitment of the additional staff is expected in the 2016/17 fiscal year to meet the required staff of 22 members.