By PATRICK AMUNAVI
The establishment of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC) at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT), is set to enhance the region’s research in sustainable natural resources conservation, bio-medicine for universal health and modern agricultural techniques.
Education Cabinet Secretary, Amb. (Dr.) Amina Mohamed announced during the official opening of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre, a Chinese-funded project that sits on 40 acres of land at JKUAT, Thursday, December 13, 2018.
The Cabinet Secretary said, Knya has anchored science, research and innovation at the heart of social economic development. “This collaboration th, therefore,nstitutes a core strand in delivering the nation’s priorities. It is my hope that we will broaden this venture to other institutions of higher learning by facilitating world-class institutional twinning to develop the ecosystem necessary to foster cutting-edge research and innovations that will go through the full cycle to commercialisation,” said, Amb. Mohamed.
In a speech read on her behalf by Prof. Mohamed Abdille from the Ministry, the Cabinet Secretary further said, the exchange between scholars from China and Kenya “will significantly strengthen bilateral and economic relations and position our institutions as global centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, thus creating the capacity to drive the attainment of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25), Vision 2030 and the Big Four Agenda.”
The opening of SAJOREC function was preceded by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Kenya and the Peoples Republic of China, presided over by Amb. Mohamed and the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Prof. Bai Chunli, on the establishment of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre – poised to foster science, technology and innovation co-operation between Kenya and China and Africa at large.
Speaking at the SAJOREC opening ceremony, Chairman of Council, Prof. Paul Kanyari acknowledged CAS for the actualization of the JKUAT Botanical Garden and Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre project.
“The Chinese Academy of Sciences through the Wuhan Botanical Garden, has partnered with JKUAT on various programmes, infrastructure establishment and staff training being part of them,” adding JKUAT has benefited from student scholarships that have seen a good number of students join the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“We are so grateful to the CAS for the assistance that has further seen an increase in research facilities and infrastructure development especially, laboratory equipment,” said Prof. Kanyari.
The planned establishment of a modern agricultural demonstration zone in JKUAT through the support of the Chinese Academy of Sciences will strengthen the capacity of JKUAT in her key areas of Agriculture training and research, Prof. Kanyari concluded.
Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, underscored the significance of research component in driving JKUAT’s strategy towards the achievement of the University’s vision, citing “the JKUAT Botanical Garden and SAJOREC as one of the University’s Vision 2030 flagship projects with the aim of ensuring biodiversity conservation in the region.”
The Vice Chancellor noted that the JKUAT Botanical Garden is based on seven thematic gardens which include – biodiversity conservation, GIS and Remote Sensing, natural products development, agricultural science and technology, microbiology and molecular biology.
The state of the art research facility, Prof. Ngumi stated, comprises six specialist research laboratories, administration offices, conference and accommodation, infrastructure that she noted, creates the largest platform for Sino-African co-operation in biodiversity research and conservation for the African region.
Under the collaboration, 13 JKUAT students and staff in various science related disciplines have already benefitted this year alone, Prof. Ngumi informed the gathering.
Reflecting on the comparative developmental milestones between Kenya and China, the Charge d’ affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, Mr. Li Xuhang, said Kenya’s GDP in 1977, stood at 350 US Dollars, double that of China at the time, which stood at 185, USD. Today, he observed, over 40 years ago, China is the second largest economy in the world.
What helped China to rise like a phoenix? Mr. Li Xuhang said, China’s singular investment in science and technology and the subsequent role played particularly by the Chinese Academy of Sciences – provided the transformation impetus that has impacted the world through training of top notch scientists who shake and move scientific global affairs.
He encouraged Kenya to gain the momentum for development which he said, was possible through dedicated scientists, adding, SAJOREC project is partly China’s effort to promote scientific and technological development in Africa.
The President of CAS, Prof. Bai Chunli said, “SAJOREC is one of our major projects for strengthening scientific cooperation with developing countries under the Belt and Road Initiative, stating, so far, “CAS has developed 9 overseas centres of excellence for scientific research and education, and provided scholarships to over 1500 international students from countries in the Belt and Road Region to pursue Master’s and PhD degrees in China.”
Prof. Chunli said, SAJOREC is very unique as the only one built in Africa and it has received strong support from Chinese President Mr. XI Jinping, Chinese Premier Mr. LI Keqiang, and Kenyan President Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta.
He noted that SAJOREC has served as an international platform for academic cooperation open to the whole region of Africa focusing on areas of much importance to the sustainable development of Africa, such as food and water security, eco-environmental protection, wildlife conservation, public health.
The Center has provided over 120 scholarships to African students to study at CAS for Masters/ PhD degrees, with a majority being from Kenya.
According to Prof. Chunli, CAS has pledged to support SAJOREC in cooperating with Kenyan partners to develop a modern agriculture R & D centre in addressing the food security issue; develop a traditional medicine R & D centre in addressing public health; to enforce the cooperation in earth sciences, especially that in remote sensing applications; and to implement the East Africa Water Tower project in addressing eco-environmental issue.
SAJOREC will play a critical role in promoting STI co-operation in areas of top priority and concern to African people and make visible contributions to the sustainable development of the African community.