Researchers in Kenya have received a major boost with the creation of a national public-private endowment fund to facilitate research in science, technology and innovation.
The fund, announced during the country's budget speech last week (14 June), will receive a start-up allocation of US$2.9 million from the national budget, with further contributions expected from the country's private manufacturing and research institutions.
Amos Kimunya, the finance minister, said the fund was expected to increase the role played by local scientists in economic development — in line with Kenya's new and ambitious economic blueprint, Kenya Vision 2030.
Kimunya stated that the fund was part of a broader plan to use science and technology to improve six major areas of national development — agricultural development, expansion of infrastructure, healthcare and education delivery, security and crime management, public administration and industrial production.
Kimunya said, "I appeal to all private sector players to contribute towards this fund, whose access by our talented scientists and researchers is expected to strengthen our capacity to use knowledge and technology in supporting a productivity and knowledge driven economy."
The government has also increased budgetary allocation to agriculture by 20 per cent to US$425 million, with resources being deployed to spearhead modern biotechnology research.
According to Kimunya, research will be enhanced by the completion mid-next year of the East African Marine System project — an undersea fibre optic cable — and the development of a National Fibre Optic Network, towards which the government has allocated US$14 million.
Stephen Agong, the deputy vice chancellor of Maseno University, noted that the move is likely to draw more attention from a private sector keen to improve their products.
"Although the private sector has no obligations to contribute to the fund, we are likely to see their increased attention as they try to catch on to the best innovation that the country's scientists can provide," he told SciDev.Net.George King'oriah, the executive secretary of the Kenyan National Council of Science and Technology, told SciDev.Net that his institution will make use of the fund to help upcoming scientists improve on their innovations, as well as market to the private sectors.