Kenya’s Fledgling Innovation Agency Could Be Dissolved 10/06/2016 by Maina Waruru for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya could disband its infant innovation agency and have its functions taken up by the state’s science, technology and innovation body, if changes suggested by the government to reform the science, technology and innovation (ST&I) sector are carried through. Kenyan innovator displaying an easy to use indoor mosquito trap, presented during the Grand Challenges Africa conference in February this year. Photo courtesy: Africa Academy of Sciences The Kenya National innovation Agency (KENIA) could be dissolved and its functions absorbed into the country’s lead ST&I agency, the National Council for Science and Technology and Innovation Agency (NACOSTI), in changes suggested in May by Education Minister Fred Matiang’i. The minister told a gathering of the Kenya National Science Week, from 16-20 May, that there is need to consolidate government agencies involved in science and innovation under one body to avoid duplication of roles and to end a disjointed approach to the country’s ST&I activities. The move, the minister indicated it would help in saving cash, with money spent on paying salaries allowances and other expenses for KENIA staff and board, and that of another government agency, the National Research Fund (NRF), being channelled to fund research activities undertaken under NACOSTI. It is also meant to cut bureaucracy in the government’s Division of Science and Technology which as well handles the higher education docket. NACOSTI and KENIA are under the Division of Higher Education Science and Technology within the Ministry of Education. “We cannot afford going on the path we’ve currently taken in the ST&I sector where we have various agencies doing almost similar work and spending money that can be channelled to support research work being used to pay salaries and allowances,” said Dr Matiang’i in justifying the decree that could eventually spell doom for the agency. Questions are however being raised over how the government hopes to go about dismantling KENIA and transferring its functions to NACOSTI considering that the fledging innovation entity is a statutory body established under the Science Technology and Innovation Act 2013, which also transformed NACOSTI into a commission from the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST). Under the act signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2015, KENIA was mandated to lead and manage the country’s the country’s innovation sector and help commercialise inventions at both formal and informal sectors. The agency was meant to have its own board of management and a secretariat under the law, but it was not until November 2015 that its board was appointed and sworn into office. Some staff was seconded from the Education Ministry and NACOSTI to serve at the embryonic agency as it waited for funds to establish structures and source for own staff. According to Roy Mugiira, an official in charge of technical services at NACOSTI, KENIA was allocated seed money amounting to US$150,000 last year to get it off the ground before it could get proper funding allocation from the government during this year’s 2016-2017 national budget in July. “The agency was allocated seed money last year, not because there was problem with funding it but because it came into being long after the 2016-2017 budget was in place,” Mugiira told Intellectual Property Watch in a phone interview. The move to do away with the agency is surprisingly getting support from players in the innovation sector, who seem unanimous on the need to merge and consolidate government agencies handling ST&I initiatives. According to Joel Ochieng, senior researcher at the University of Nairobi and a key player in Kenya’s biotechnology movement, KENIA’s roles would be best handled by NACOSTI to avoid creating confusion in the sector. Doing so, Ochieng said, would cut on wastage and help strengthen NACOSTI as a one-stop shop in leading and guiding ST&I work in Kenya. In his opinion, NACOSTI is better placed to manage, formulate policy and fundraise for innovations. “This move may disappoint a few people, especially board members who were earning allowances from KENIA, but the best policy direction in interest of innovations sector must prevail over interests of a few individuals,” Ochieng said. Both Ochieng and Mugiira agree, however, that the law must be repealed if the agency is to be disbanded, since it was established under law, a process that could take months or even a year, going by Kenya’s parliamentary calendar and the bureaucracy involved in making laws. “If the aim is to streamline the sector, I see nothing wrong in taking the law (ST&I Act 2013) back to parliament for repeal,” lecturer Ochieng said in an interview. For his part, Mugiira said that concerns have been widely expressed that Kenya’s ST&I landscape is fragmented and there is justifiable need to reform in order to enable the sector respond appropriately with changing circumstances. “The government recognises the potential role of KENIA in national development and appreciates this body as a strategic institution in nurturing innovations, I guess that’s why it wants to take another look at it again,” said Mugiira. A government taskforce appointed to look at operations, relevance and tasks of more than 300 government agencies and parastatals in 2014 had appreciated the need for a strong innovation organisation, and KENIA was one of the institutions cited for reform, according to Mugiira. “The taskforce recognised the critical work the agency can play if well-structured and I think this is what informs the minister’s pronouncement,” he said. The suggestion is that KENIA need not be a standalone agency but can be part of NACOSTI. The taskforce in question and whose report was never made public was also intended to look at how government agencies could be rationalised with a view to having their activities harmonised to cut on wastage. Since Minister Matiang’i made the statement in mid-May, not much has been heard on progress made over the fate of KENIA, and inquiries on how and when the disbandment of the body and reform of the sector would commence have not been forthcoming from senior government officials. Besides KENIA, Kenya has another body that performs duties closely related to those of KENIA, the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), which registers trademarks and patents on innovations. KIPI has in the past few years been active in working with and guiding creators including scientists, artisans and craftspeople in the informal sector. The informal sector is popularly known as Jua Kali in Kenya, and is a critical mass employer. KIPI has been busy registering patents and trademarks for both the formal and informal sectors. Image Credits: Africa Academy of Sciences Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Maina Waruru may be reached at email@example.com."Kenya’s Fledgling Innovation Agency Could Be Dissolved" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.