East Africa needs a regional research agenda

  • 30th October 2018
  • by secretary

22-24 October 2018. Kampala, Uganda. A high-level meeting brought together members of national research institutions, policy institutions and government within Uganda, including senior decision makers, to explore approaches to enable an equitable research system in the country. 

The meeting tackled important questions such as: how national research systems can nurture a wider pool of research talent and how to foster an inclusive research and knowledge system that enables a diversity of voices and opinions to contribute to national development.

The event was hosted by and has been developed in partnership with Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST). Based in Kampala, UNCST develops and implements ways to incorporate science and technology in Uganda’s national development process and advises the government on relevant policy matters and coordinates research and development activities in the country.

The meeting defined a shared vision; articulate the key challenges and gaps that limit equitable access to, use of and full contribution by researchers and institutions to the national research and development agenda; and developed a plan for a holistic, equitable, collaborative and sustainable research system that is capable of contributing to national development priorities of response. It will include speakers from Uganda’s Ministry of Science and Technology, Resilient Africa Network, universities across the country, UNESCO and Sida, as well as from UNCST and INASP.

The six key areas for discussion were:

  • Uganda’s national research system and who is shaping the future
  • Research funding and its drivers
  • Gender inequity
  • The obstacles within the global economy that impede African knowledge transfer and application
  • The dynamics of North-South research collaborations
  • The global knowledge pool: is it restricted and who determines access and contribution?

Ms. Gertrude Ngabirano, the executive secretary East African Science and Technology Commission

( EASTEco) an East African Community institute told the researchers that working together as a group would help East Africa share the high costs associated with research.

“We are small economies. Infrastructure is expensive. It makes sense to work together and share results. It is easy to work together since the region faces the same challenges. Each country within the region would be given areas where they have comparative advantage so that they put their best talent there, citing Uganda taking coffee.”

In research international organisations are already using the specialisation model for some time.

  • For instance the just ended World Bank programme, the East African Agricultural Productivity Programme (EAAPP) selected countries depending on their comparative advantages. Uganda was selected to host the Cassava Centre for Excellence, Ethiopia was selected to host wheat, Tanzania rice, while Kenya was given dairy.
  • The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) also host specific programmes in different countries. Nigeria hosts the international centre for Cassava, Philippines hosts one for rice, Kenya one for livestock and forests, Peru for potato.