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[Nairobi] Scientists in Kenya are trying to persuade the government to include a reference to the importance of science and technology in the country’s constitution, arguing that this is an essential step towards solving the country’s socio-economic problems.

In a memorandum presented to a commission currently reviewing the constitution, the scientists argue that the establishment of a knowledge-based society requires policies for science and technology that last beyond a single parliamentary session.

“They can only be achieved if they are written into the constitution,” says the memorandum, which was drawn up under the auspices of the Kenya National Academy of Science (KNAS).

Kenya’s constitution is due to be revised for the first time since it was agreed in London in 1961, two years before the country received its independence. The review process is due to be completed by April next year (2003).

Shem Wandiga, president of the national academy and lead author of the memorandum, is sharply critical of the lack of adequate financial support for scientific research that is provided by the government.

Kenya currently allocates less than 0.1 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to research and development, which many scientists say is totally inadequate to meet the country’s needs for science and technology.

The memorandum warns that Kenya will only make sustained progress in building capacity in science and technology if it makes sound policies and implements them over several decades.

“Such a policy framework should be flexible to future adjustments and recognise the interconnectedness of areas upon which science and technology bear,” the memorandum says.

The scientists identify these areas as human resource development, demand for knowledge from the productive sector, public support for and management of knowledge institutions, and access to information and Communication Technology.

Emphasising that acquisition of science and technology depends on human intelligence “which is evenly distributed in all nations”, the scientists regret that developing countries tend to lack the political will, leadership and correct policies to achieve scientific and technological proficiency.

“The state has a responsibility to put in place an enabling framework to encourage education at all levels but more, especially, tertiary education institutions should be more innovative and responsive to the needs of a globalised competitive knowledge economy and to the changing labour market requirements for human capital,” the memorandum notes.

“We need to reorient our industries to demand and use knowledge as their basis of production,” it says, calling for the country’s legal, commercial, industrial and social policies to be revised to provide favourable environment for the stimulation and management of knowledge institutions.

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Link to the KNAS memorandum (file needs Adobe Acrobat Reader.)