China and the World Bank will host the Africa Forum on Science and Technology in Higher Education in July in Beijing. More than 60 African university chancellors and directors of centers of excellence have been invited to the forum.

This was made public during the fourth edition of the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) forum recently held in Nairobi. This year’s edition attracted leaders from 19 countries across sub-Saharan Africa who connected with their counterparts from China and other states. The event was officially opened by Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Fred Matiang’i and Deputy President William Ruto.

PASET was launched in 2013 by African governments to address systemic gaps in skills and knowledge in ASET fields, to build African institutions’ capacity and to train high quality technicians, engineers and scientists. Since then, over 20 African countries, the private sector, as well as representatives from Brazil, China, India and Korea has participated in its activities. The Governments of Senegal, Rwanda and Ethiopia have taken the lead by seeding the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), and have been joined by Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.

The uptake of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses is seen to be low as more preference has been placed in arts and humanities courses. This has proved very hard for universities, governments and parents to invest in the facilities, the infrastructure, the equipment and human capital needed to teach science and technology courses. 

Nonetheless, World Bank has noted that Sub-Saharan African nations produce 11 million new graduates entering the job market each year. Yet the region ranks among the lowest in scientific research and development, contributing just 1.1 percent of global research output.

To this end, the Kenyan government has set apart USD $300 million on Research and Development (R&D) at the IBM Research Labs. The money will aid ICT researchers in Kenya, introduce them globally to what other researchers are doing in R&D and cater for research priorities in the country every two years.

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