University-industry disconnect hurting region’s growth

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  • East African universities are not engaging well with the extractive industry
  • Upcoming forum aims to link academic institutions to the extractive industry
  • Expert calls for a consortium to boost internship opportunities for graduates

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[NAIROBI] The disconnect between industry and higher learning institutions, especially universities, is hampering capacity building in natural resources exploitation for socioeconomic development of East Africa, experts say.

A conference to be held in Kenya next week (15-18 May) aims to facilitate networking and sharing of experiences among key actors in the extractive sector as well as those from the academia.

Jonah Aiyabei, director of the Kenya-based Morendat Institute of Oil and Gas (MIOG), says that although the region is endowed with oil and other natural resources such as natural gas, precious metals and minerals, it lacks skilled human resource to help reap the needed benefits.

“There is a need to establish training centres to equip our own people with requisite expertise instead of getting people from outside the continent.”

Jonah Aiyabei, Morendat Institute of Oil and Gas (MIOG)

Aiyabei tells SciDev.Net that the days when the universities sat in ivory towers believing they had solutions for the industries are long gone.

“Universities need to produce professionals who are qualified,” Aiyabei explains adding that, “This calls for effective involvement of the industries to help in designing curriculums for the development of skills employers need.”

The region, he says, over a long time has been depending on rain-fed agriculture and neglected the extractive sector, which could create job opportunities for the youth and women.

“There is a need to establish training centres to equip our own people with requisite expertise instead of getting people from outside the continent who will come to drive their own agenda,” adds Aiyabei.

Experts at the High Segment Review and Consultative Forum on Capacity Building for Natural Resource Management: The East African Extractive Industry held in Kenya 20-22 March, which was organised by MIOG and Kenya Pipeline Company, ahead of the May conference also argued that there is a serious disconnect between what is taught in the universities and what the job market is looking for.

Robert Gateru, the vice-chancellor of Riara University, Kenya, said that universities and industries should stop working in silos and complaining about each other and start documenting the training gaps available in the extractive sector to help them know capacity building needs.

He also called for sharing of success stories by the sector to the communities and also getting the data available to inform policy makers.

Daniel Oyoo, chairman, Department of Gas and Petroleum Engineering at the Kenyatta University in Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that a consortium that will link academic institutions and industries to work together is necessary for the region.

The consortium could create internship opportunities for students to acquire practical skills.

Arthur Bainomugisha, executive director of Advocates Coalition on Development and Environment, an independent public policy research institute in Uganda, urges the region to develop and enhance relevant legal frameworks and policies for the sector.

“This will enable the access, monitoring and transparency of exploring the resources, and also help protect the marginalised communities and the environment,” Bainomugisha says.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.