Institutions of higher learning challenged to offer academic leadership

By Hilary Mongera

Institutions of higher learning in the East African Community (EAC) have been challenged to offer academic leadership through quality research into critical areas of need and provide solutions to concerns affecting Partner States, Principal Secretary in the State Department for EAC Dr. Kevit Desai has said during the EAC Scholarship Programme Launch and induction Workshop in Entebbe – Uganda.

“Specific roles of higher education institutions in the regional integration agenda include innovation that develops relevant human capital engage and translate research into a form that can be taken up and used by private and public sectors. Contribute to the intellectual, social and cultural resources of the region in ways that encourage inward investment of knowledge intensive business through consultancy services, stimulate entrepreneurial activity and collaborate with businesses to create mechanisms of interaction,” Dr. Desai says.

Universities, being centres of excellence can tailor courses on integration issues that promote awareness of regional policies and build capacity for participation. Draw from local scholarly expertise to engage with regional strategies and programmes either in the form of advising, providing input or conducting formative or evaluative research into critical areas of regional development such prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Carry out policy analysis, robustly critique and debate around regional strategies, policies and programmes in the interest of the EAC citizenry.

“It is imperative when institutions of higher learning promote enterprise and business development growth by inculcating entrepreneurial culture amongst staff, students and graduates. This result in a pool of skilled human resources retaining the much required skills in regional. Thus, providing mechanisms to stimulate business start-ups or spin-outs amongst graduates and staff necessary create cross-border networks and linkages to form foundation for future cross-border co-operation and investment”, Dr.Desai said.

The Principal Secretary urged universities to protect intellectual properties through patenting for institutions to earn revenue and act as a stimulus for further research and innovations which will initiate policy analysis and create niche for countries’ destination. Thereafter, enhance product development and innovation for competitiveness, development of economic models on taxation and other market integration indicators to strengthen application of evidence in industries and comparative studies. Therefore, designing teaching and research programmes around issues of regional interest such as health, political integration models and setting up regional academic centres of excellence is but a requisite for all institutions of higher learning in order discuss issues of common concern.

The region will be able to create create adhoc and formalised collaborations on specific issues, direct engagement with communities and work creatively with the willingness to take risks to become even greater forces of societal transformation and provide solutions to immediate society e.g. Moi University work towards revitalization of the textile industry.

“It is therefore, imperative when institutions of higher learning promote enterprise and business development growth by inculcating entrepreneurial culture amongst staff, students and graduates. This result in a pool of skilled human resources retaining the much required skills in regional. Thus, providing
mechanisms to stimulate business start-ups or spin-outs amongst graduates and staff necessary create cross-border networks and linkages to form foundation for future cross-border co-operation and investment”, said Dr.Desai.

The universities within EAC can contribute to the level of skilled workforce in the region by producing an educated cadre that has the requisite knowledge and skills for the economy flourish through movement of staff and students between the universities private and public sectors in the region. In forging strong partnership between universities, businesses and the public sector create linkages for increasing staff and student exchanges to encourage cross-pollination of ideas and networking across borders which is vital to foster collaborations and promotion of a dynamic exchange of ideas and experiences at the local, national and regional levels spur and nurture new integration approaches.

PS Desai underscored the need for higher learning institutions in the region to embrace regional exchange programmes that provide opportunities for increase mobility and reciprocal learning in building regional knowledge base and identity for social and economic cohesion. Also forge extra-regional collaborations with institutions of higher learning to attract external talent, technological transfer and specific sectoral skills to the region that will enhance development of a critical mass aimed at establishing proactive programmes to retain graduates in the region.

PS Desai congratulated the sixty pioneer students to benefit from the East African Community (EAC) Scholarship Programme initiative by the Partner States, the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and the German Development Bank-KFW. He urged them to take the lead to champion EAC aspirations and become innovative to tackle difficulties the region encounters. The students are drawn from all Partner States and Kenya has 10 beneficiaries of this initiative. The Director for Economic Affairs, Production and Infrastructure Dr. Andrew Musime introduced the 60 pioneer students selected to benefit from the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) programmes into the EAC aspirations and pillars of integration.

The East African Community (EAC) Scholarship Programme is an initiative by the Partner States, the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and the German Development Bank-KFW. The goal of this initiative is to contribute towards training leaders that will foster EAC regional integration. This goal will be partly achieved through the establishment of academic collaboration and an exchange programme between universities within the EAC region, by encouraging students to study in countries other than their own. The project begun in 2018 when the EAC and IUCEA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with KFW geared towards the training of students within the EAC region. The Project aims at creating future change agents, who identify themselves with the integration agenda of the EAC and are willing to share economic and development-oriented expert knowledge.

The overall approach is to support highly qualified students who are not in a position to finance masters’ programmes on their own. The scholarship will support masters’ students in Mathematics, Engineering, Informatics, Science, Technology and Business Science Programmes. In order to achieve these impacts, the project offers a comprehensive package including scholarships for master’s Programmes, internships, mentoring, networking events and further leadership training activities. The scholarship programme will include a minimum 30 percent females’ students in order to support women’s participation and enhance gender equality.
The project has a component of extra co-curricular activities meant to reinforce the scholarship programme objective of creating change agents within the EAC. The activity will provide complementary learning, skills

development and an opportunity for interaction with different players from the EAC in politics, economy and leadership among others.
The scholars will take part in extracurricular events at a minimum of one event-visit per year and scholar. These could be, trainings on regional integration topics or other subject based seminars focusing on emerging priorities within the EAC region. While the Masters programmes are offered in host institutions, part of mentoring, networking, leadership training and capacity building on EAC integration will be implemented through the EAC induction workshop 2020.