All six East African partner states have a great capacity to create wealth for their citizens by harnessing science to attain industrial development, EAC boss has said.
The East African Community Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko has underscored the role of Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) in transforming East Africa countries from largely agro-based economies into competitive industrialized ones.
According to the SG, it is worrying that the region was at the moment consuming goods that are manufactured elsewhere.
“By doing this it was exporting jobs and revenues that would ordinarily have benefited EAC citizens.” He said.
The internal EAC market has about 146 million consumers with more than 50 per cent of the EAC population consisting of well-educated youth in need of jobs. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) comprises 20 member states with a population of over 460 million. Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi are all members of COMESA.
Currently, imports from the EU into the region are dominated by machinery and mechanical appliances, equipment and parts, vehicles and pharmaceutical products, while exports to the EU from East African Community are mainly coffee, cut flowers, tea, tobacco, fish and vegetables.
Innovators in the region, the SG says have little or no assistance from governments and other stakeholders in STI to transform their ideas into products and services.
East Africa, especially Kenya has been famed for some of the most transformational innovations like Mpesa. Kenya was even ranked the most innovative country in East Africa, last year.
Mr Mfumukeko said that to address these and other challenges to industrialization in East Africa, the EAC had put in place the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), an institution of the EAC that would push for the promotion of STI throughout the region.
“By promoting a culture of innovations that the region would be able to make its industrial and service sectors more productive and competitive.” He said.
According to The Global Innovation Index 2017 Innovation Feeding the World, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, Mozambique, and Malawi stand out for being innovation achievers at least five times in the previous six years.
In her remarks, the Executive Secretary of EASTECO, Ms. Gertrude Ngabirano, said it was unfortunate that East Africa was still exporting raw materials to industrialized nations and in turn importing goods manufactured from the same raw material at prices 10 times higher than the value of its exports.