Huawei Technologies has urged Kenyan universities to raise the level of investment in research in order to drive innovation in the country. The company also urged universities to build stronger, deeper private sector partnerships to grow the country’s digital innovation pipeline.

Speaking during this year’s Africa Division’s International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP) Conference at Konza Technopolis, Huawei Kenya Vice Director for Programs Management, Maureen Mwaniki underscored the importance of Research and Development for the success of the Kenyan economy. She noted that it urgently requires Kenyan universities and technical institutes to remarkably increase their degree of investment to deliver more innovative products and services.

Themed Science and Technology Parks and Areas of Innovation as Catalysts of Sustainable Growth in Africa, the conference was designed as a platform to share knowledge and experiences on matters innovation and technology development.

It was officially opened by Joe Mucheru, the Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs who lauded private sector firms such as Huawei for supporting other players in academia to build  ICT skills among the youth. He also noted that the government was committed to partnering with ICT players including Huawei to build a skills database designed to match skills to available industry opportunities.

According to the Ministry of Education website, Kenya has over the years been allocating Ksh. 400 million annually to finance research and innovations, with a yearly pipeline of just about 1,000 projects. The funding target though is much larger, pegged at 2 per cent of the country’s Ksh. 1 trillion GDP, translating to about Ksh. 200 billion.

Kenya’s ranking on innovation investment (input) sub-index was 89 out of 129 countries in 2020, with a score of 38 points out of 100, according to the global innovation index. This placed the country in the bottom third of the list in terms of investment. The score has been stagnant since 2011 despite the potential of innovation in reducing the unemployment rate, which stands at 19 percent among young people aged 15-24, according to the World Bank.

Spending on research, science, technology and innovation under the State Department for University Education was estimated to be Ksh. 2.49 billion in the 2018/2019 financial year, according to the Treasury, accounting for two percent of the total spending on university education. Overall, the country spends 0.8 percent of its GDP on research, thus punching far below its weight in innovation.