Kenya’s development programme is likely to receive a major impetus if sweeping recommendations proposed to increase research funding budget to the country’s public universities and other government research institutions are passed. The proposals contained in the Education Bill 2012, now a subject of parliamentary debate, proposes to increase the national research budget from the current 0.04 percent to 2 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product, a figure that will far surpass the United Nations recommended target of one percent.
The revelations were disclosed by Dr. Roy Mugiira, Senior Deputy Director of Research, in the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology who was speaking at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Thursday, November 15, 2012, where he represented the Minister, Prof. Margaret Kamar, during the official opening ceremony of the University Scientific Conference.
Dr. Mugiira informed over 100 scientists drawn from several countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia, his ministry anticipated the expected Bill, would lead to the establishment of the National Commission for Science and Technology. The Commission to regulate and set the country’s research agenda, he hoped would get the legislative nod and assented to law by President Mwai Kibaki before the end of the year. The Bill he added would as well be instrumental in the establishment of the National Research Fund that he said would be charged with mobilization and funding of research kitty.
Welcoming conference participants, Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga asked participants who included investors and policy makers, one of the greatest challenges that researchers in her University were grappling with was the slow pace of commercialization of the numerous research outputs of JKUAT.
“The Ksh. 52 million budget is scarcely enough to fund the over 50 research projects we are currently conducting”, said Prof. Imbuga. The Vice Chancellor however reported substantial research breakthroughs in the various thematic areas including food security, energy, climate change and health care.
Prof. Imbuga announced her administration had initiated a research Award Scheme to motivate staff researchers engaged in the all crucial enterprise. Equally, an annual Technology Exposition forum was in place to inculcate a culture of research and innovation among students.
In her address, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Esther Kahangi noted that the culture of research has enabled the university to emerge as a leading regional institution in Agriculture, Science and Technology, emphasizing that JKUAT has “never entertained the ivory tower mentality, instead actively engaging in creation and dissemination of usable knowledge to the public”.
The annual event, now in its seventh year of implementation primarily aims to create a forum for constantly improving the University’s approach to development-oriented scientific research. A total of five lead papers in various scientific areas will be presented at the two-day event which is running alongside exhibitions of various scientific outputs.