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Safaricom and Huawei to Fund ICT Innovation in Kenyan Universities

Huawei, a Chinese telecommunication solutions provider, and Safaricom Kenya have signed a memorandum of Association (MoU) with the University of Nairobi, Moi University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to ensure engineering students in Kenya are equipped with modern up to date telecommunication skills to meet current industry needs.

“Africa’s education system has been criticized in the past for being too out dated in that there is a gap between what is learned in class and what is in the industry and thus need to catch up with the rest of the world,” said Li Dafeng, President Eastern & Southern Africa Region Huawei. “This MoU seeks to facilitate bridge the knowledge gap,” he added.

Defeng said that Kenya would become an ICT hub in the next five years following its efforts to allow more of its higher education institutions to engage in such a program through partnership with ICT companies.

Kenya’s Higher Education, Science and Technology, secretary, Professor Harry Kaane said that the venture will enhance the country by producing properly trained engineers in the information communication and technology (ICT) sector.

Professor Kaane who is also a registered engineer, articulated that the country has 150 engineers per 1 million of the Kenyan population while South Africa has 550 engineers for the same population.

He explained that is why they the ministry of higher education and technology is using facilities afforded by middle level colleges to train more engineers to bridge this deficit as they train technicians.

Under the MoU, students from the three universities will benefit from advanced training in the latest telecommunication technologies through Huawei’s East Africa state-of-the-art training centre situated along Mombasa Road. The MoU will also include Universities’ curriculum review and competition for Android applications development to enhance localized innovation which is in line with the country’s Vision 2030.

By the end of 2010, over 45,000 students had received certified training from the Huawei training centre.

Further, the principal of the college of school of engineering and architecture at the University of Nairobi, Professor Benard Njoroge said the signing will not only enable Kenyan students access the state-of-the-art technology, but also enable them to do their identified projects at the centre.

Professor Njoroge added that this will go along way to promote industry-academic-government linkage where students will have a industrial experience while schooling.

Nzioka Waita, the  Director of Corporate Affairs at Safaricom explained the benefits of the system:

“In doing this, we shall be answering the call to build extra capacity in terms of manpower and training skills in response to the fast growing information technology industry in Kenya, especially on the data front. There is need for skills that will come up with relevant applications to meet the daily challenges of the common user and improve the well-being of the ordinary Kenyan.”

The two companies last month announced the leadership of the Huawei IDEOS in the Kenyan smartphone market with a 45 percent share. The smartphone has been key in promoting localized software applications in Kenya which is one of the aspect the MoU seeks to advance.

Additionally, the Ministry of information and Communication, permanent secretary, Dr Bitange Ndemo said, “The facets of technology keep on changing everyday and for students to remain relevant in the job market or in their own entrepreneurial endeavors – they require modern training, thanks to Huawei for making this possible.”

Dr Ndemo said 90 percent of the mobile phones owned by Kenyans are smartphones, and so there is a need for corresponding local software. Dr Ndemo supported the efforts of the companies to “come up and support our students in their career developments – it’s not only good for them but also for our country as we envision becoming the ‘silicon valley of Africa.'”

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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