Minister Tumwesigye decries low investment in research

By Christopher Bendana

From the period 2014-17 Uganda registered two patents, Kenya 103 while South Africa had 14,000

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Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, the minister for science, technology and innovation, has said Uganda is investing little in research and development and this is affecting innovation.

Speaking to scientists from 15 Sub-Saharan countries’ national science councils attending a consultative meeting at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, Tumwesigye linked low levels of innovations to low funding to research and development.

He said Uganda was spending only 0.5% of its GDP on research and development (R&D), Kenya was ahead with 0.9 of GDP. R&D giants like South Korea use 3 % of its GDP according to the UNESCO 2015 science report.  

“We have not been doing well,” he said.

To explain his point, he highlighted the number of patents from selected countries. From the period 2014-17 Uganda registered two patents, Kenya 103 while South Africa had 14,000 in the same period.  

The science chiefs working under the Science Granting Councils Initiative are here to deliberate on how to utilise a grant of 15m Canadian dollars from International Development Research Center (IDRC) running from 2018-2023.

They are from Uganda, Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Namibia, Mozambique, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

Dr Peter Ndemere, the executive secretary, Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, the host of the meeting said they would like to focus the funds to innovations that promote sustainable development.

The funds are meant to help councils improve their capacities to manage research, support knowledge transfer to the private sector and support partnerships and networking between councils and other stakeholders.

Dr Ellie Osir, senior program specialist, technology and innovation at IDRC said they were supporting the national science councils to have the leverage of asking for more funds from their governments.

“We are supporting councils to have strong evidence for their case as they look for counter funding,” he said.  

IDRC grant is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), National Research Foundation of South Africa and the Department of International Development (UK).