The Minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero, accompanied by a team from the STI Secretariat toured the production works of Uganda’s first engine at the John Lugendo and Company Ltd foundry in Kibuye, a Kampala City suburb.
The engine whose prototype was originally developed by Kevoton Motions Engineering Ltd has now been tailored for application in a 3-in-1 Trike for mobility, irrigation, and power generation under the institutional support of Kiira Motors Corporation.
Dr. Musenero expressed excitement upon this major achievement on the journey to the commercialization of the locally-made engine and the project’s prospects towards the creation of jobs and local content development in the Mobility Industrial Value Chain.
The engine is comprised of 128 parts, 70 of which have been fabricated by the team at the foundry and 58 sourced on the local market.
On the right is the three-dimension render of the 3-in-1 trike in which the developed diesel engine will be fitted after successful ignition. This project symbolizes a major strategy by STI to bring together the immense human resource among the Jua Kali with the Engineers to fast-track development in the country.
Secretary – Strategic Scientific Advisory Council and Thinktank,
STI Secretariat – Office of The President.
Further to, “Not everyone does science, let alone, excellently”, a statement I made in my previous article about STI being a key driver for Socio-economic transformation, thankfully published here, I would now like to stress a few more positions in view of the headline to this article:
However highly gifted scientists may be, they cannot produce safe innovations—especially those meant for human and animal health such as vaccines, drugs, and therapeutics, without observing strict processes and procedures;
From time to time, there will be conspiracy theories, suspicions, and claims regarding STI doers’ motives, security concerns that might accrue, efficacy or the lack thereof of products at hand, and accountability for resources—especially those having monetary value, inter-alia, invested in the churning out of given innovations;
Lest conspiracies turn out adversely true, STI doers be unnecessarily misconstrued to be unscrupulous, or out of wanton ignorance, politically-motivated malice, policymakers frustrate STI development and deployment, yet it is, in modern society, indispensable in the socio-economic transformation quest, scientists, policymakers, national security handlers—and other relevant stakeholders, need to form a symbiotic functional synergy to reap from STI.
The media in Uganda has in recent days been awash with controversy between some policymakers and scientists. The former sought to establish whether or not the latter, associated with the Presidential Initiative on Diseases and Epidemics (PRESIDE), duped the President when they reportedly promised him that they would work towards producing a COVID-19 Vaccine, which two years after the pandemic subsided, has not come through! In one of the Accountability queries before the [Parliamentary] Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the scientists attempted without much success, to explain to the policymakers that producing a vaccine needed, at the furthest extension, fifteen years. The media picked it up and it attracted undue mockery.
Vaccines, to be really safe and effective, cannot miraculously produced in a haste. Never, except, of course, if there is existing infrastructure and human capital to build upon. Vaccine candidates must undergo all requisite clinical trials, without flouting any manufacturing process. To this effect, an excerpt from an Abstract by Dr. Jennifer Pancorbo, PhD, posits, “Developing a new vaccine from scratch takes considerable time. It depends a lot on how much information is available about the disease itself, how the disease infects people and spreads, and so on. But it traditionally has taken 5-10 years to get a new vaccine.” Dr. Jennifer Pancorbo is the Director of Industry Programs and Research at the North Carolina (USA) based Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC).
Unlike other countries such as America which had already built internal capacity—both infrastructure and Human Capital, and easily leveraged on these when COVID-19 broke out, Uganda, was highly unlikely to produce COVID-19 Vaccines before the pandemic subsided. For instance, America quickly came up with COVID-19 Vaccines because it had previously produced one for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which, although different from COVID-19, is also part of the coronavirus family, stemming from a different coronavirus strain—SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1. Therefore, SARS and COVID-19 being in the same coronavirus family, and with existing infrastructure and human capital previously employed to curb SARS, it was easier for America to build upon existing resources and quickly churn out COVID-19 Vaccines unlike Uganda and other nations that had to build from scratch!
In the aforesaid policymakers versus scientists’ stand-off, the latter assured the former that they had embraced the COVID-19 onslaught, given delayed vaccine supplies, and vaccine apartheid, as an eye-opener for Uganda to embark on Research and Development (R&D), and build internal capacity—infrastructure and human capital, to avert future epidemics. So far so good!
Finally, without stern security masterly, a country’s defence system is incomplete and vulnerable, and socio-economic gains at risk of ruin.
When an April 18, 1963 newspaper article reportedly published by the Mansfield, Ohio New Journal, quoted Frederick Hunstman, telephone company commercial manager, as saying, “Mainfielders will carry their telephones in their pockets. Don’t expect it to be available tomorrow, though. Right now, it’s a laboratory development and it’s workable, allowing the carrier to make and answer calls wherever he may be”, it seemed like some silly joke! Only ten years later, however—on April 3, 1973, to be precise, the first cellular phone was made by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper, in New York! To the rest of the world, sixty years later, a cellular phone is no longer a breathtaking invention.
The first mobile phone service came onto the Ugandan scene in December 1994. The telecom company, Celtel, using the GSM 900 technology mainly targeted high end users like business people and the diplomatic community, but today it has become an-all-time communication companion, the only awing thing being perhaps about how latest is one’s model of a cellular phone! For instance, in the first quarter of 2022, Uganda had (27.67 million) cellular mobile connections—more than half of its population of 49,029,364 million as of December 14, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS).
Uganda has for a while imported cellular phones mainly from United States of America, China, India, South Korea, Finland, and United Kingdom, but with an ambition to make Uganda the best technologically advanced innovative nation in the [East African] region, and also according to findings from a December 24, 2022 visit to the Mbale based facility by Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, Minister of Science and Technology—Office of The President, come February 2023, Uganda will become the third East African country—after Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and fifth in Africa—after South Africa, Nigeria—and the two aforementioned, to make Smart phones! The East African region comprises seven countries—the original three: Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania; plus, [now]: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Rwanda; South Sudan, and Burundi. Ethiopia has also applied to join.
The minister and her team visited a brand-new factory being constructed to manufacture LED flat TV screens, smart MIONE phones and other electronic devices for import substitution.
If all goes as planned, phone manufactured in Uganda will be launched in January 2023—or, thereabout. The Mbale city-based factory in the SINO Industrial Park has a manufacturing line for LED flat TV screens also scheduled to begin just about the same time. Unfortunately, this industrial was recently gutted by fire that left everything: raw materials, machinery, equipment, stored and finished materials in ruins. The investors are, however, so highly resilient that they will neither be deterred nor discouraged by this setback.
If phone manufacturing successfully takes off, it will: save Uganda at least Ug. Shs125 billion ‘lost’ to phone importation annually; and create at least 1000 jobs—directly, or engaged in different processes in the phone Value Chain. Do not forget that there will be exports—in the region and beyond that will definitely bring in revenue and all that may accrue from it.
The PearlAfricaSat-1 story is testament to Uganda’s openness and commitment to cordial and strategic global partnerships especially those of mutual interest in nature. In this bid, the government of Japan, through the Kyushu Institute of Technology; and the USA, through NASA
Is our Education System fulfilling Africa’s dreams? Is it helping to solve our challenges? At a November 23, 2022 meeting with the Education Policy Review Commission, Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, minister for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI)—Office of The President, nearly caused an uproar when, rooting for an education that is well relevant to Uganda’s development needs especially using STI, firmly unconventionally but also benevolently noted, “We must have the courage to re-invent the wheel of education. We must be willing to go down to the gutters and do the hard and undesirable work. We need to overhaul the education system.”
Did she say, “Overhaul the Education System”?! Does she know what it means to bring down a system that has existed for many years to which we are not only products, but have also superintended in one way or the other? Does she not recognize the efforts made over the years? So, where does she want the products of this system to go? Doesn’t she care that her proposal will render Uganda’s adults irrelevant? Although not explicitly stated, by simple implication, nothing could be closer to the truth of the imagination thereof than the grim on the faces and murmurs from some participants!
If these reaction imaginations are anything to go by, we can postulate that Dr. Musenero had successfully caused positive disruption—a shift in thinking. You are perhaps familiar with the statement that there is no growth in the comfort zone; and no comfort in the growth zone. The fear of the unknown coupled with being in one’s comfort zone have never been good starting points for valuable revolutions. But with honest explanation akin to confronting brutal facts, the Minister ably won the Commission’s buy-in pointing to worthwhile engagement with clear prospects for meaningful synergy. But, how, exactly did she do it?
She stated helpful facts and reflections. As a disclaimer, thoughts stated herein are not wholly verbatim, but the essence as was meant by the minister remains unaltered. STI and national development are inextricably inseparable: science acts as a foundation and is a key driver for socio-economic growth at personal and societal levels. In fact, at least, fifty percent of any nation’s development is attributed to how much it has put to use STI be it consumptive or innovation development. The value of an education system is rooted in the purpose for which it was created. And this should be our point of reflection as Uganda: “Who created the education system we have had for all these years, and for what purpose?” Do we as a nation and by extension, African Continent, gain meaningful value thereof? If, yes, why are we still left behind in development indices compared to Europe which handed down the same education system to us nearly seventy years now past?
Prior to missionary and later, colonialists’ descent on Africa with impositions that demonized or rendered or rather conditioned Africans to consider anything indigenous inferior to anything European, Africa, of which Uganda is part, had her own societal development systems including in education running on similar principles as Europe but in the African context. The Indigenous African Education System (IAES) imparted holistic human nurturing skills. It took the free-interaction folklore approach rather than school / classroom-confined rote conditioning that made learning easy and enjoyable. Youngsters were taught values, including work: production; value addition; metal works; etc., for posterity through totems and storytelling as opposed to foreign alphabet.
Europeans, then, came and disrupted our education system and strategically imposed upon us one of their own craft and interest to churn out clerks and assistants to help them achieve their interests in Africa at her expense. This education thwarted Africans’ curiosity, killed their creativity and innovation. Conditioning bred alienation and myopism that Africans could not see or, at least, took long to realize how irrelevant European designed education was for Africa!
Many years later, we are still grappling with the consequences of such education. How do you, otherwise, explain the ugly reality of poverty, disease, and underdevelopment amidst countless elites, some even professors, needless to mention insurmountable untapped natural resources or simply ‘donated’ to foreigners who add value to it only to return it and sell it exorbitantly to unbothered Africans? As it is now, there is no mentality for using education as a catalyst for industrialization and development. Instead, it focuses on content and passing of examinations, producing job-seekers that do not gainfully contribute to economic development. Consequently, the vicious foreign-dependence cycle continues, even for such essential supplies as pharmaceuticals! However, with COVID-19, we seem to have woken up, but do not yet know where the door is! But it is a good wake-up call to shift from focusing on treatment to prevention! We must build robust internal capacity.
Therefore, the aforesaid Education Policy Review Commission is a timely and right step in the right direction. We can as well argue that was prophetically for it comes at a time when Uganda desperately needs reforms in education. Hence, we must seize the opportunity before the gate closes for once the cycle passes, it might not re-open soon. Only Uganda can best design its education models distinctly proper to her development needs! Partners may come in, but to escape their often-concealed crippling selfish agenda, Uganda must break the ground herself.
By Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza Minister, Science, Technology and Innovation, Office of the President.
I have heard some Ugandans express offence concerning the “Cheap Milk Economy.” I fully understand your feelings. But allow me share a few thoughts.
Right now is not the time to be offended, it is time for strategy. It is time to be innovative! Over the past months, I have analyzed the strategies used by Europeans in their dealings with Africans, and other developing nations, and I think we have great lessons to pick and emulate as we transform our economy.
When Europe built industries following the industrial revolution, they needed more people in the workforce. At first, they were using their own people to produce raw materials, but they soon realized this was not sustainable. So they established industrial schools (the origin of the current Education System we have) to skill their people to work downstream in industries and bought slaves from Africa as cheap labour to do the bottom tier grunt work of producing raw materials.
When campaigns against slave trade intensified, they fought it off as hard as possible, while knowing they couldn’t hold off the relovution forever. During that time, they shifted strategy to colonizing the nations from which they had got their slaves. The only change was now, the raw materials could be produced in the same place as the “slaves previously came from”. By the time slave trade ended, they had strategically shifted slave labour into colonies! Which no one at the time objected to.
When colonies started getting “big headed” and clamoring for independence, the Europeans once again fought off this change, well knowing it was yet again only a matter of time before the change would come. As they fought for their status quo, they continued strategically innovating ways to shift their economies away from industries that depended on raw materials from the colonies.
By the time they lowered the Union Jacks, they were already well into the implementation of the new plans for their economies. In the first few years, they kept the factories running on cheap raw materials willingly supplied by former colonies, still in slave mode. But knowing the education they had left for them, they knew it was a matter of time till raw materials run out or become valueless. On their own, former colonies lacked capacity to innovate and sustain productivity, combined with the clandestine shift to “knowledge based economies,” there would no longer be a ready market for African raw materials. But they needed to keep former colonies as markets for the products from their new knowledge based economies.
But how do you sell to bankrupt nations? To answer this question, European nations innovated Credit and Aid. Broke former colonies would soon need to borrow to stay afloat. So they set up new mechanisms to keep the former colonies working for them, this time by lending them money.
What are the lessons:
Development is a value chain that unfolds in unpredictable ways. Be alert to follow it along the bends and turns, and work to turn each change into an advantage.
Make the most of what already exists, while constantly innovating to keep ahead of the times. From my analysis, keep your Innovations at least 10 years ahead of the shift.
Always be strategic. By the time they realize you have shifted, you should be far ahead, offering them the next product. Keep putting one leg ahead of the other.
What offends you and your livelihood should serve to make you wiser, work harder, smarter and clandestinely. Don’t simply be annoyed, THINK! INNOVATE! ADAPT! PLAN! ACT!
Now back to cheap milk. We have played ahead and achieved a huge feat – producing cheap milk. That is a good precursor to industrialization of the milk value chain. We should not destabilize the market by discouraging the buyers of the cheap milk. If we can make it cheaper, let’s do it. Income is not about price, it is about amount of money earned. But we must be in the middle of “our decade” of innovation!
We must now strategically focus on the next leg of the diary value chain. One day there will be no cheap milk out of Uganda. Not that it will become expensive, it is that we will be selling cheaper value added products. It is not price that matters, “Cheap is a business strategy”. China used it well.
What we need most now is the good will and confidence of Ugandans towards their Science, Technology and Innovation teams. Our recent goal with the National Science Week was to give you a glimpse of what we are upto. We don’t have to prematurely spill all the beans now. Keep thinking of the bigger picture.
The government has today launched the 2022 National Exhibition for Science Week, (NEWS 22), Uganda’s annual showcase of science, technology and innovation to document progress made towards technological advancement to steer national development.
To achieve the mandate of STI, we work closely with our agencies to build the ecosystem and understand Ugandan needs & develop customized technology solutions to support Uganda citizens.