President Kagame’s recent address to those gathered at the Annual Meeting of the American Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) in Boston, United States, centered on the importance of science and technology in the development of Rwanda.
According to press reports, he talked about the challenges his country faces in its efforts to achieve development through science and technology.
Kagame has clearly demonstrated overtime great commitment to the advancement of his people’s well being through the development and application of science and technology as tools key to the transformation process of the country.
The process is two-fold. On the one hand the development of technology in the country, for example communication or manufacturing technology, will have a direct impact on the economy.
At the same time, people are needed to drive this development. So the fostering of skills within the sector, i.e. training people in science and technology, is also key.
Knowledge-based advancement seeks to develop the human capacity that will in turn drive industry.
It is said that it is humans and not natural resources like oil that determines the development trajectory of a country.
There are countries endowed with natural resources like the Democratic Republic of Congo that have not achieved levels of development, whilst others without such resources have prospered.
Science and technological advancement can help a country exploit its natural resources. Many developing countries have little choice but to allow foreign companies tap into their natural resources.
We need only look at the role multinational companies have played areas like Nigeria’s oil delta region. The absence of local scientific and technological know-how creates room for foreign multinational organizations to make a killing at the expense of the nation.
In Nigeria this would have been avoided if the country had its own companies that could make use of its oil wealth.
Relying on foreign companies reduces profits. The importance of investment in scientific and technological research ought not to be underestimated.
Advancement in science and technology has played an important role in the development of many countries in the West and recently in Asia. The importance of development in areas of science and technology is underlined by the role such scientific advancements play in improving a peoples quality of life.
It not only makes work easier and faster but also new advances in medical research helps a people to stay healthy and become a formidable workforce.
How to begin improving science and technology in this country?
A bedrock of scientists and researchers is key. Thus education is essential. From primary school, through secondary school to technical and vocational training and university education, we need to place as much emphasis as possible on science and technology.
We need to refocus education syllabuses thereby fostering in the young the requisite skill and knowledge to become a viable human capital.
At the same time it is important that such we do not become victims of a brain drain. Scientists are too often lured by better salaries in developed countries. This is a loss for the country which invested in their people’s education.
We need to create incentives for the skilled to stay in their country. Better pay and favorable working conditions could be the answer. At the same time skilled nationals ought to realize the importance of economic nationalism as a component of the development process.
The private sector, which is as yet barely developed in this country, will also play a central role. Private companies should be encouraged to carry out research and development in the area of science and technology. This requires a public-private sector partnership.
Whereas the national leadership has displayed its commitment to science and technological developments, the private sector entrepreneurs should also mobilize alongside the state to realize that end.
The Government has set up a fully fledged ministry in charge of science and technology, and has increased spending on education.
President Kagame has called for the creation of partnerships between Rwandan universities and institutions in the west that have advanced in the area of scientific research. And while such relations are an excellent initiative there is much we can do at home.
In all our different capacities, as students, businesspeople, teachers, let each and every one of us commit our efforts to realizing this important goal.