NATIONAL SCIENCE WEEK – 2022 RE-INVIGORATED UGANDA’S HOPE FOR SCIENCE-LED SOCIO-ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION!
Apart from life itself, there’s nothing as beautiful as the tenacity, that dwelling neither unnecessarily too much on its hard-edged nor nostalgic past, a nation seeks to find its deserved place among its peers in the years to come. Suffice it that I state for inevitable reference, that despite technology and civilization having begun in Africa, Africans, sadly, for unacceptably far too long, naively—or genuinely without helpful choice, were robbed of their skill, acumen, and pride in the advancement of science.
From archeological times to Stone Age, what is clear is that before suffering foreign distraction, Africa, as the Continent is currently known, was a bedrock of technological ingenuity and civilization which formed the primary catchment or nucleus for global civilization. This was, however, involuntary: but lost through onslaughts that engendered by foreigners targeting to exploit both the African human genius and raw materials for their own development.
But, with revolutionary renaissance currently underway in Africa, sooner than later, her story might be better re-written. The African endowment and intellectual DNA remains insurmountably veritable, but only shrouded in alienated mindsets. Yes, Africa, for long did not pull herself up faster off the foreigner’s yoke and languished in subjugation, cynicism, and ridicule, there is hope that with strategic innovative endeavor, that ugly reference can and will be effectively turned around. Of course, some people argue that it is too late for Africa to arise and reclaim its civilization, but that will only depend on Africans’—and in this case, Ugandans’ ability or lack thereof, to take self-redemptive responsibility.
The STI Secretariat refuses to bemoan bygones nor be cowed by such naysayers. It won’t yield to the common temptation to go defensive either, but boldly confront brutal facts and contrive positively. This is a matter that should now only be confined to literature. Uganda needs to arise and proffer practical solutions to enhance her redemption and transformed socio-economic future. Informed by the national agenda, guided by and pondering the NSW 2022’s theme, “Uganda in 2040: The Future we Want Through Science Technology and Innovation”, the STI Secretariat brought together stake holders, to showcase their plans towards achieving Vision 2040, while emphasizing the interconnectedness within and between the various value chains. In all these, the STI Secretariat prudently sought, but rather magnanimously, to arouse in the minds of Ugandans, inter-alia, that:
- science is everywhere in everything at all times—in humanities as in science itself. That not only is man a scientific being—upon whom scientific investigations are conducted and conclusions reached, but also survives and/or thrives on science every passing instant—from the breath of oxygen, to food, water—and the smallest of things we rarely, if at all, accord thought as scientific products: fire; clothing; shoes; light; etc., and often take for granted;
- science should not be limited to laboratories: everyone is—or can be a scientist in many respects only if they recognize science in the many things each one does, and open their mind to the possibility of even doing just more than that;
- science—technology, and innovation, is an indispensable driver for a nation’s socio-economic transformation. That in giving man dominion over and mandate to fill and replenish creation, God bestowed upon man scientific and transformative power;
- science and social change are symbiotic: that because change is inevitable, to survive or thrive in the fast-changing world, nations and citizens must inevitably embrace science, technology, and innovation.
The National Science Week (NSW) is Uganda’s annual celebration of Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI), culminating in commemoration of the World Science Day for Peace and Development on November 10 of every year. The NSW 2022 was celebrated from November 7-10, 2022, at Kololo Independence grounds.
Celebration of the annual NSW comes from the backdrop of His Excellency the president’s direction on Uganda’s National STI System and Agenda in which he assigned the STI Secretariat, the Office of the President, as coordinator. The Secretariat is mandated to provide overall strategic direction, policy formulation, enactment of regulations and provision of adequate resources for implementation of policies, regulations and programs for Science, Technology, and Innovation.
The STI agenda prioritizes eight (8) Industrial Value Chains, as directed by H.E the President. These include: Mobility; Industry 4.0+; Pathogen Economy; Infrastructure Innovations; Aeronautics and Space Science; Productivity Acceleration; Import Substitution and Export Targeted STI. The STI agenda focuses on harnessing benefit from these value chains through commercialization and industrialization of innovations.
The National Science Week 2022: Participation and Results
The NSW 2022 was graced by the presidency, Prime Minister, policymakers of significance, academia, scientists / innovators, the business community / private sector, and the general public. Top-notch value-chain-based innovation exhibitions from Ugandans, High-level Panel discussions, Speeches and the launch into international space of Uganda’s first Satellite, PearlAfricaSat1, made by Ugandan engineers, highlighted the week-long event.
From these and more, it was clear that there is no limit to what, especially Uganda’s young people, can do or be except by their own thinking, inappropriate nurturing, or cynicism imbued in their minds by people with ulterior motives. The common fears about political stability or an enabling environment were significantly allayed by the government through the Hon, Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, the PSST, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Ramathan Ggoobi, and His Excellency the President, Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, through Her Excellency Jessica Alupo, the Vice President.
- Results: convictions; observations; and recommendations…
Through the aforementioned value-chain-based innovation exhibitions, Panel discussions, Speeches and related event activities, a number of observations and recommendations were made, and only but a few are summarized / paraphrased here:
- In his speech, His Excellency the president, unequivocally noted that the ever-growing societal needs necessitate that a nation [in this case, Uganda] builds robust technological capacity to cope with the changing social and physical environment. This gave credence to the broad philosophy behind both the establishment of the STI Secretariat, and the efforts invested in organizing the NSW itself;
- Relatedly, on her part, the docket minister, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, reminded Ugandans, inter-alia, that:
- because today’s science can be disproved tomorrow, necessitates that we [in broad terms] be flexible, proactive, and nurture generational attitudes that will continually update science to churn out new innovations that will cater for the ever-changing needs of man at any one point in time;
- Uganda must not delegate thinking: the answer of what we need to do to solve our problems lies within us, or, at least, we should be engaged. She cautioned Ugandans against following global trends without censoring them;
- we need, as Africans / Ugandans to know that our future is in our hands, and not be lost in selfish myopism of the now that favors only “me/us”, but take responsibility for the future. We need to sell our country better, and constantly ask ourselves: “What can I do to transform Uganda?”
- we need to create and/or embrace thinking space that transcend politics, religion, tribe, etc. She emphasized—and truly so, that the STI Secretariat observes the highest ethical standards uncompromisingly.
- The Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja, immensely appreciated the innovations and noted that Uganda has come of time to roll-out and popularize such innovations in order to serve all citizens.
- Finally, there was a televised live debate on the topic: “How do we achieve Vision 2040?”, and it became apparent from discussions, that there was urgent need to be deliberate on: branding Uganda; mindset change; addressing the gaps in skilling and capacity development; taking advantage of our achievements to build our confidence; and removing the barriers between Government and Private Sector. These, if strategically worked on, would exponentially leapfrog Uganda into a coveted science-led economy in the region and beyond. There is great hope!