East Africa's universities are seeking to play a central role in the region’s quest for industrialisation through promotion of research, science and technology.
They have undertaken to work with public and private organisations to provide insights into strategies for industrialisation and more importantly, conduct practical research to prescribe solutions to industry problems.
This week, the universities converge at Catholic University in Nairobi for a two-day meeting with public and private sector players to discuss ways and means of utilising science and technology to innovate and stimulate industrialisation.
The theme is: “The East African Common Higher Education Area: Opportunities for Industrialisation through Academia-Public-Private Partnerships.”
Organised under the auspices of the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), the conference seeks to create an interface between higher education institutions and the industry, recognising the perennial disconnect between the two and create harmony. Other conference conveners are the East African Business Council, the East African Science and Technology Commission and the East African Development Bank.
According to the deputy executive secretary of IUCEA, Dr Mike Kuria, the conference intends to deepen partnerships between universities, the public sector and the industry and creating platform through which each party influences what the other does.
“Industry ought to influence curriculum offered in universities to ensure graduates fit the labour market and also offer solution to societal challenges,” he said in an interview.
“Similarly, universities should carry out research and offer knowledge to support products from the manufacturers.”
Dr Kuria says the aim of the conference is to rally universities to work with the industry and help their countries transit to middle-income economies.
It is instructive that all the East African countries have committed to industrialising within the next few years — Rwanda in 2020, Tanzania 2025, Kenya in 2030, and Uganda 2040. Industrialisation is predicated on strong education, science and technology that starts right at basic to higher levels.
Challenge is translating the visions into reality, which is where the universities come in.
The conference comes against the backdrop of the declaration of the East African Common Higher Education Area, which came into force last year and whose grand objective is to establish common academic standards and allow free movement of students and lecturers, as well as credit transfer.
As a common higher education zone, East Africa universities commit to producing graduates with comparable skills and competencies, who can be recruited and trusted to work anywhere in the region.
Most importantly, the universities commit to pursuing common research projects and contribute knowledge to steer the region’s economic growth.
The Common Higher Education Zone dovetails into the East African Common Market that provides for free movement of goods, labour and services across the region.