icipe to manage regional doctoral training, research and innovation fund

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Kenya, has been selected to manage the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), an initiative aimed at strengthening doctoral training, as well as research and innovation in applied sciences, engineering and technology (ASET), in Africa.

The RSIF is strongly positioned to support the continent’s concerted goals of achieving inclusive and sustainable development, by creating much needed technical and scientific capacity for the advancement and use of transformative technologies.

The RSIF is one of the flagship programmes of the Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), an initiative by African governments to address fundamental gaps in skills and knowledge necessary for long-term, sustained economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). PASET was launched in 2013 by the governments of Senegal, Ethiopia and Rwanda, while the governments of Kenya and Ivory Coast have since joined the partnership. So far, 15 other African governments have made commitments to join PASET.

The RSIF aims to support PhD training, research and innovation in various African universities selected to be nurtured into centres of excellence in fields identified by PASET as priority economic sectors for growth and development. The initial funding has been provided through a six-year USD15 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA), towards the design and administration costs of RSIF scholarships, research and innovation grants. The Government of South Korea is providing a USD9 million grant that will support PhD scholarships and research grants. The governments of Kenya and Rwanda have made contributions of USD2 million and USD1.5 million respectively, while Ethiopia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi have pledged financial contributions.

“The RSIF is an innovative and ambitious project and one that we truly look forward to seeing having an impact on higher education and scientific-technical capacity on the continent,” noted Prof. Javier Botero Alvarez, Lead Education Specialist at the World Bank.

Transformative technologies for inclusive and sustainable growth in Africa

A majority of African countries aspire to achieve a middle-income status. They have also made commitments to the African Union Agenda 2063, and the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) 2030, while fulfilling conditions of the Paris Agreement on climate change, among others. In addition, over the recent past, there has been definite recognition at the highest possible levels that, in order for sustainable and inclusive growth to be achieved in Africa, the continent’s economic structure must diversify away from simple resource extraction, towards manufacturing and services.

For this goal to be achieved, a range of technical and institutional improvements are vital, to introduce innovations in products and processes, and to achieve higher productivity. Meanwhile, the rapidly advancing transformative technologies, which cut across the physical, digital and biological spaces and include technologies such as 3D printing, internet of things and artificial intelligence, hold great potential for Africa’s specific challenges. Sometimes known as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, such technologies could dramatically augment efficiency in the food, energy, infrastructure and health sectors while also enabling the continent to counter the impacts of climate change.

Currently, SSA lacks a critical mass of applied scientists, engineers and technologists. The region has just 1.1% of the world’s scientific researchers, with less than 92 scientists per one million inhabitants, compared to the global average of 1083. SSA spends a mere 0.41% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development (R&D), and only 1.4% of global scientific publications originate in SSA. Further, SSA is the destination of 0.8% of R&D-related projects financed through foreign direct investment, compared to 28.7% received by China and India. Against this background, and alongside boosts in the business environment and other supportive measures, a regional approach that complements country specific initiatives to enhance skilled technical and scientific capability, as well as the nurturing of innovators and entrepreneurs, is critical.  

RSIF’s approach

RSIF aims to respond to prevailing opportunities and challenges in SSA by reinforcing doctoral training in ASET through a virtuous circle that will increase the number of PhD graduates while improving the quality of higher education through stronger faculty. The fund will also promote research and innovation in areas like materials, energy, food security, and information and communication technology, which have high potential for growth and development.

A competitive grants scheme, RSIF has two components: (i) a general fund, which supports PhD training, research and innovation projects annually and (ii) a permanent or endowment fund, whose proceeds will be channeled into the general fund.

icipe’s role

icipe has been appointed the Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU) of RSIF with a mandate that includes overall coordination planning, monitoring and evaluation of RSIF activities. Specifically, icipe will manage the two RSIF funds; strengthen the capacity of universities and partnering institutions to manage PhD scholarships, and to conduct research and innovation in the priority sectors. In addition, icipe will facilitate the creation of partnerships with governments, universities and national and international research organisations for research training, for example through sandwich training and collaboration with centres of excellence. icipe will receive the IDA grant funds and is expected to coordinate future contributions from governments, the private sector and other sources, administering them under the oversight of the PASET governance bodies.

icipe was selected through a competitive process, and was awarded the grant due to the Centre’s strong processes and systems, governance, record of world-class R&D and demonstrated experience in PhD and institutional capacity building in Africa, and its excellent record of research commercialisation,” said Prof. Botero Alvarez. “Moreover, icipe’s extensive network of academic, research, donor and development partners amounting to over 300 organisations and institutions, in Africa and across the world, is a huge asset to the goals of RSIF.”

“The Centre is honoured to support the RSIF, an initiative with a noble goal for the continent; one that resonates with our Centre’s vision in many ways,” noted icipe Director General & CEO, Dr Segenet Kelemu. “We believe that our near 50-year history stands as a testament of unrelenting commitment to science and innovation-led development in SSA.”

Capacity building of people and institutions has been a core commitment of icipe since its establishment in 1970, enabling national and subregional R&D innovation systems to sustainably undertake their own R&D programmes to deliver on-the-ground impacts for Africa.

icipe shares with RSIF the vision of bolstering research and development capacity and excellence in Africa; the ambition of innovation for sustainable and inclusive growth; increasing representation of women in science and technological fields; and the ideal of a regional approach to Africa’s developmental challenges.

Notes for Editors

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (www.icipe.org), headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, with country offices in Ethiopia, Uganda and Somalia, is the only research institution in Africa working primarily on insects and other arthropods. icipe’s mission is to ensure better food security, health and livelihoods in Africa, by producing world-class knowledge and then developing solutions that are environmentally friendly, accessible, affordable and easy-to-use by communities. These objectives are delivered through four thematic areas – human health, animal health, plant health and environmental health, resulting in a unique framework to tackle the interlinked problems of poverty, poor health, low agricultural productivity and environmental degradation in a comprehensive manner. Granted a Charter as the basic legal instrument, icipe is an international and inter-governmental organization established as an autonomous, non-profit making, research and capacity building institution. The Centre currently has operations in 40 African countries, and thriving partnerships with universities and research organisations as well as regional and national media outlets across the world. Since 1983, icipe has partnered with 43 universities in 18 African countries and 39 universities, 14 countries from the rest of the world, and numerous national and international research institutes and training partners. icipe gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the following core donors: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida); UK Aid, from the government of the United Kingdom; the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Kenya; and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

The Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) was launched in 2013 by the governments of Senegal, Ethiopia and Rwanda with facilitation by the World Bank. It aims to address systemic gaps in skills and knowledge in sub-Saharan Africa’s priority ASET fields, and to build the capacity of African education and training institutions to train high-quality technicians, engineers and scientists to meet the demands of the economy. Since 2013, more than 20 African countries, as well as representatives of Brazil, China, India and Korea have participated in PASET’s various activities. PASET is currently led by the education and higher education ministries of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal, Kenya, and Ivory Coast. The PASET governance bodies, comprising the PASET Governing Council (GC) and the PASET Executive Board (EB) will provide strategic direction for implementation of the RSIF project by the RCU. The GC will be responsible for the overall strategic direction and vision of the RSIF, while the EB will interact with the RCU more regularly, monitoring the regular progress of activities and providing overall guidance. The PASET Consultative Advisory Group will provide guidance to the GC and EB on regional priorities, goals and technical aspects of the RSIF.