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Legislators are impressed by the speed of progress of science technology and innovation projects.

By Muhumuza Jimmy 


 Members of Parliament sitting on the Science Technology and Innovation Committee are currently touring projects under the 8 pillars of the Industrial Value Chain.

These are under the Stewardship of the Secretariat for STI -OP, headed by Dr. Monica Musenero.

They visited the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) and the MPs led by Alex Niyonsaba, Bufumbira South County Legislator, and the Chairperson of the Committee were impressed by what they saw on the ground during the oversight visit of the selected industrial value chain for the National Development Plan Three (NDPIII).

In his submission, MP Niyonsaba tasked the management of the National Science Technology and Innovation (NSTEI) center in Namanve Industrial Park, Mukono district to explain the formalities of young unemployed engineers all over the country, and how they can benefit from the facility.

He also wondered why the facility is not fully operational, yet construction was completed over a year ago. “From the last time we were here, I haven’t seen any change in the human traffic in this place. What is the problem?” he questioned. 

The chairperson also requested a detailed report on strides so far made by the center, and strategic plans for the programs, that will be rolled out.

The management was also tasked to provide accountability for how the funds allocated by Parliament have been utilized for its intended purpose of promoting STI activities.

The members of the Committee said that all they are concerned with is to see results in terms of locally manufactured goods.

The Members also noted gender inequality gaps whereby 90% of the staff at the Namanve center are men, leaving the women out.

Another issue that the MPs raised was what innovations are the scientists coming up with to solve issues of post-harvest handling, whereby agricultural products which are perishable like tomatoes and green vegetables through value addition.

Peter Urien, the Undersecretary Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation in response said that they are working towards having value for money for every penny they get from the Government. He said that there was a delay in the operalisation of the projects because they were still in the implementation phase, which he says was completed.

He added that the recruitment of the trainer of trainers was done and training was done in China, and they are now back in the country.  They are going to have their final training later this year. He requested the MPs to ensure that funds are allocated for the project so that, come June 2024, they can fully take off with the operation of the center.

Prof. Charles Kwesiga; the Executive Director of Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) in a submission to the Committee said that it is impossible to industrialize without modern machinery, adding that with the current state of affairs, it is proving to be a challenge to get the required machinery.

He said that most Ugandan engineers are far behind in terms of acclimatization with modern technology, which makes it very hard to employ them.

He said that during a work trip last week in Addis Ababa on the invitation of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, he was able to sign an MoU with a partner and UIRI is going to be manufacturing smart water meters and transformers from Namanve.

He also said that they are set to start manufacturing radios with the capacity to manufacture 30 radios at the start.

However, Prof. Kwesiga threw a veiled attack on the line of Minister of Science Technology and Innovation who he said is out of touch with activities ongoing at UIRI and needs to find time and visit the facility.

Some of the challenges faced by UIRI include inadequate budgetary allocation, compounded by release shortfalls that have failed to fully operationalize MMISDC, failure to complete projects on time, and inability to honor various obligations including contractual commitments.

There is also the challenge of high staff attrition occasioned by competing needs for a limited pool of specialized and experienced personnel engaging in similar endeavors. The poaching of high-value UIRI staff is a case in point which is largely attributed to UIRI’s remuneration and staff benefits which are lower compared to their competitors.

UIRI was allocated Shs25.502 billion in the financial year 2022/2023 but only Shs22.589 billion was released according to a document seen by this publication.

On the two projects visited at Namanve Industrial Park, said that Technology Business Incubation Centre and UIRI are good projects but have some duplication issues whereby one project is headed by the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST) which is supposed to be a regulator, but surprisingly is carrying out implementation of projects at TBIC, which should have been a mandate of UIRI. However, he said that those are only administrative issues that can be solved.

About the Mpooma ground station for the space science center in Mukono, Engineer Niyonsaba said it is another area that is important for the country which is a strategic one, and its progress is being curtailed by lack of funds, which he says will be handled by the committee when they go back to parliament.

Hon. James Kubeketerya, the Bunya East County who is a member of the STI committee in parliament, told journalists on the sideline of the visit that UIRI is well equipped with the necessary machinery but the only thing that is lacking is capital. He added that if UIRI allocated Shs200 billion as seed capital to start full-scale production, it would become self-sustaining as it will be making sales from the products it will be producing.

He also reiterated the chairperson’s view that UNCST should be a regulator and not an implementer of the projects, saying that it should be left to UIRI.

Concerning the Mpooma satellite center, he said that all that is needed is more funding and collaboration with other countries like Ethiopia which are way ahead of Uganda in space science and technology.



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