The slackened socio-economic growth and development of the East Africa region has been partly attributed to slow uptake and commercialization of locally generated social and scientific innovations, a situation also blamed on poor integration between the academia and the industry. As a response, the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) organized a consultative forum, bringing together member universities, and the private sector and public institutions.
Under the theme: Bridging the academia and the private sector through engagement with the public sector, the initiative aims to promote dialogue on strategies and action plans that can accelerate and foster socio-economic wellbeing of the region. The participants at the three day forum that comes to an end, Saturday October 26, will particularly be keen on re-examining the roles and opportunities available for each of the three pillars and drawing actionable plans towards the realization of the objectives.
Addressing the opening session of the forum, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta challenged the private sector and the academia to be proactive in responding to regional and global challenges in order to expedite regional development. The partnership, President Kenyatta added, should be focused on research and development initiatives with emphasis on food security, value addition, technology and access to markets.
President Kenyatta also called on the business community to work closely with universities in the region and support innovative programmes that can promote entrepreneurship among the region’s youth.
“This approach will create a pool of indigenous, skillful, adaptive and competent human capital capable of stimulating the region’s socio-economic development,” said President Kenyatta, in a speech read by Phyllis Kandie, Cabinet Secretary, East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism.
In his remarks, East Africa Community Dr. Richard Sezibera maintained that the region could easily leapfrog into economic prosperity if it capitalized on its abundant natural resources, technological revolution and large population base.
While appreciating that the actualization of forum fulfills the desires of the EAC, Sezibera urged regional governments to work together for the benefit of the region. He wondered why African countries cannot turn locally available resources into viable industries unlike countries such as China and Brazil.
Prof. Mabel Imbuga, the IUCEA Chairperson revealed the initiative to engage the private sector was one of the action steps of the Council as it repositions itself towards realization of the higher education expectations of the people of East Africa.
“Our partnership with region’s employer associations will further strengthen academic programmes towards enhancing quality and relevance of the graduates from member universities,” averred Prof. Imbuga.
Prof. Imbuga who is also the JKUAT Vice Chancellor added integration of academia and the private sector would also promote staff and students’ mobility across the region, in line with the aspirations of the EAC protocol.
The forum is jointly organized by East African Business Council and the East African Development Bank under the auspices of the East African Community. Besides the presentations and discussions, a number of exhibitors drawn from the three sectors are also participating.