Human Capital Development: Why it’s Important to Have Scientists

Dr. Cosmas Mwikirize – Superintendent Industrial Value Chains

Perhaps many of us are familiar with the landmark stories in science: Archimedes’ Eureka moment in a bathtub, which is at the heart of modern water-based navigation. The discovery of Penicillin.  The invention of the incandescent lightbulb. Einstein’s mass energy relation.  It is easy to take these discoveries for granted today, but evidently, the human race would be underdeveloped, perhaps even extinct without some of these advances. I have not even scratched the surface. Most of the science, technology and innovation work happens off the glare of the cameras, conceived and executed by people like you and me. 

Science enables us to understand the principles governing everything in our world and beyond, develop products and services that solve challenges like disease, and improve quality of life.   As we cycle through life, the challenges facing our world evolve as well. In Uganda, we need to reduce poverty and underdevelopment through industrialization, value addition to our raw products and the concomitant creation of high value jobs. This is the target of Vision 2040. Along the way, we need to build better roads, generate more energy, add value to our minerals such as iron ore, and develop our indigenous medicines, to mention but a few.

Human capital is a key component of our Vision 2040 ambition. A well trained and skilled human resource base will improve technical skills, norms, behaviors, and productivity and lead to the upgrading of our standard of living. We need a workforce that understands all aspects of the value chains that we have focused on as a country. It is only human capital development that will enable us to shift into a technology-generating economy, from the predominant technology importation, through Technology Transfer and Technology Development. It is only human capital development that will enable us to generate new designs/ideas/products to spur industrialization. Investment in human capital will thus enhance research and development, promote an increase in physical capital, and improve our economy.

 The NRM Government, under His Excellency the President, understands the need for this paradigm shift. This is the reason why we have emphasis for science-oriented institutions, curricula, and a higher pay for scientists. Not because they are more important, but because they will give us the launchpad for the economy.

Suffice to note, scientific learning and orientation does not happen only in schools. It happens in industry. It happens in the marketplace. In the garages. Downtown. In the media houses. What is important is not to lose focus of the scientific method. We solve problems by first understanding what the problem is, creating a plan, seeing the plan through, and looking back to learn from the solution. Good science does not teach what to think. It teaches how to think. It teaches how to sieve through data and arrive at evidence-based empirical decisions. To decide what works and what does not.

Therefore, anybody can be a scientist. One does not require a university degree, but it requires investment of time, effort and requisite infrastructure, to generate the necessary skills in novel areas, or upskilling to solve emerging challenges within areas we are already familiar with. Human Capital Development for Science is thus a staple for every citizen, because the scientific method is inevitable for success, not just in science, but need I say, life.  


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