Regional education experts have underscored the need for East African Community (EAC) partner states to set up an innovations fund, as well as have the private sector participate strongly in the education system.
The officials, who included university vice chancellors and many other key stakeholders in the education sector, made the observation during the sixth academia-public-private partnership forum 2018 at the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya on Friday.
The forum, running under the theme ‘The East African Common Higher Education Area: Opportunities for Industrialisation through Academia-Public-Private Partnerships,’ was organised by Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), the East African Business Council (EABC), the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), and the East African Development Bank (EADB).
IUCEA executive secretary Prof. Alexander Lyambabaje called for increased private sector investment in higher education, as well as participation at all stages of moulding students into graduates that the industry and private sector would want.
“We are at a turning point of shifting from the traditional way of considering higher education which was about creating civil servants, to now creating people who can become innovators able to create start-ups and solve the real problems of our societies,” he said.
“The private sector is key in all this and we would want them to come on board to inform the curriculum and benchmarks as well as participating in lectures,” he added.
Lyambabaje noted that universities should recruit more students in higher education and at the same time ensure that the quality of training is at international standards.
Participants resolved that; “Partner states should establish an innovations fund and increase national research as well as establish regional awards as a means to catalyse innovation and entrepreneurial efforts and support collaborative science technology and innovation initiatives.”
In a speech read for him by Peter Munya, Kenya's cabinet secretary for East African Community affairs, President Uhuru Kenyatta tasked the participants see how best the landscape of higher education and training systems in the region can be shaped in line with the different systems of knowledge production and skills development through academia-public-private partnerships.
He observed that the systems of knowledge production cover a vast range of entities like universities, public laboratories, research centres and think-tanks run by policy and civil society groups, industry and the private sector.
“More importantly, is to ensure that those systems of knowledge production and skills development should undergo profound transformation to emerge as the main motors of our industrialisation and that we should increase our capacities for research, innovation and knowledge production and entrepreneurship,” he said.
The IUCEA executive secretary said there is need to convince the region’s policy and decision-makers that it’s important to invest in high education as opposed to what was advised to them in the past that only investment in primary and secondary schools was more most important.
“Partner states should enforce intellectual property rights policies so as to enhance commercialisation of research and innovation output. There is need to establish incubators for the brightest ideas so that research findings are translated into products and services for the benefit of the region,” the participants further resolved.
The forum was guided by panel presentations and parallel group discussions themes that included: Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) as a catalyst for the transformation of the production systems and outputs and the contribution of Medium, Small and Macro-enterprises (SMEs) to ensure optimisation of productive potential for sustainable economic growth;
Others were, education ecosystems for knowledge management and information sharing within the EAC industrialisation processes and the role of the centres of excellence initiatives in EAC partner states industrialization. Media experts also discussed the role of media and creative art for promoting APPP and EAC integration.