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East Africans not investing enough in research - IUCEA

Scholars across the East African region have expressed concern at the little governments support for research, leaving the bigger burden to foreign donors.

The academicians say the consequence of this is that donors dictate the direction of research and this, in the long run, may not help countries develop.

Prof Mike Kuria, the deputy executive secretary for the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), said that it is saddening that the funds given by donors are not fully utilised.

Prof John Chrysostom Maviiri, has been appointed vice chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University

“Overdependence on donors is risky; apart from the fact that research work may not solve the problems affecting countries like unemployment and poverty, the donors can dictate the direction of the research,” Prof Kuria said.

“Let East Africa lead in financing and publishing our findings … African problems will be solved by African solutions if we [fund] our own research.”

Speaking at the International Communication Association - Africa Region's (ICAfrica), Regional Research and Publication Training workshop held in Kampala recently, Prof Kuria also said the low level of research and innovation commitment by governments doesn’t match the momentum required to realize regional development visions.

STATISTICS

Unlike other countries in the world where governments are committed to funding research, the East African region invests less than one per cent of the EAC’s GDP.

According to IUCEA, South Africa spends 0.9 per cent of its GDP on research and publications development. However, this compares poorly with Israel at 4.8 per cent, Japan at 3.4 per cent, United States of America (USA) at 2.7 per cent and Germany at 2.5 per cent.

The findings also show that East Africa invests only 0.09 per cent in research and publications. IUCEA observes that the low investment in research and dissemination creates a weak environment for innovation, stifles human capacity development, and makes it harder to break the cycle of poverty.

“Uganda invests averagely about 0.4 per cent of GDP, and as a region (EAC) invests less than 0.09 per cent of regional GDP. In both cases this is way below the Unesco recommended target of one per cent of a country's GDP,” Prof Kuria said.

RESEARCH AND INNOVATION

IUCEA says the human resource position in research and innovation is still low; for every one million East Africans there are only 82 researchers.

“For every new PhD produced in a year, 0.2 are lost to non-EAC countries … EAC partner state standards are at a level that does not speak well for internalisation of research and innovation,” he said.

Prof John Chrysostom Maviiri, the vice chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University, while reacting to the findings, said EAC researchers are still weak.

He observed that East Africa is home to 11 of Africa’s top 100 universities, and three of Africa’s top ten business schools; however, academic research productivity is weak.

“Right now the challenge we have is not the funding, but researchers who can’t write good proposals and papers to attract funding,” he said.

Prof Maviiri explained that “UMU hosts such workshops to train and mentor young researchers especially at postgraduate level; we give them capacity before they ask for funding.”

He noted that although Uganda only gives 0.02 per cent of the budget, the funds are not fully absorbed because researchers lack capacity to absorb.

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