The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), sitting in Kigali, on Tuesday expressed concern over the fact that the linkage between education, research and commerce, in the entire bloc, is not well pronounced.
In addition, according to EALA’s Committee on General Purpose, the application of science, technology and innovation (STI) is inadequate.
This was highlighted as Sebtuu Nassor, the Chairperson of the Committee, presented a report on policies and strategies on education, research, science and technology.
Giving an introductory background, Nassor noted that the combined EAC economy is “very small” when compared to the economies of individual countries like Nigeria with a GDP of $217 billion and South Africa with a GDP of $357 billion, according to 2010 statistics.
The EAC’s combined is $74.5 billion.
Nassor added that the annual economic growths of EAC countries are below 10 percent and that this implies that the rate of poverty eradication is insufficient.
“Developed countries and emerging economic giants such as Brazil, China and India have recorded sound and sustainable economic growth, and are globally competitive because of their heavy investment in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI),” said Nassor.
She listed 11 salient STI characteristics in all EAC states, 13 recommendations, as well as way the forward in terms of immediate action.
On characteristics, Nassor said that, STI policies and legal frameworks are at infancy; education systems are less competitive and not linked to socio-economic needs; an apparent STI gender disparity; and inadequate funding for educational, ICT and research and development (R&D) infrastructure.
“Most of the research and development activities are donor-driven. And linkages of the national innovations systems – that is, education-research-production-commerce-market and legal regimes, are poorly pronounced and, or, totally missing,” said Nassor.
Nassor noted that the way forward includes partner states providing, in their budget allocations, for quality education at all levels and for sustainable R&D activities.
“The African union’s decision to allocate a minimum of one percent of the country’s GDP to research and development should be honored and implemented,” she noted.
In the debate that ensued, Uganda’s Bernard Mulengani highlighted the need to collectively boost the bloc’s agricultural sector.
“When you look at the budget of member states in the area of agriculture, and therefore the improvement on agricultural exports, they are very appalling – all through the five member states,” he said.
“When we talk of STI, if we are really to develop this region, the focus on agriculture should change. We can’t improve the livelihood of the people of this region who are predominantly in agriculture, without improving the value of the products that they sell”.
Rwanda’s Christophe Bazivamo proposed a supplement in the recommendations.
“Could it be possible to think about putting in place, on the level of the community, a science and technology promotion fund, to enhance science and research in technology? If it does not exist, I propose it to be included in the recommendations,” Bazivamo said.