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Forum exposes opportunities for businesses

Government to support private sector through new innovation framework

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Private sector companies have a chance to triple their growth once they adapt to the changing technology and business environment.

This was the key message delivered by Dr. Geci Karuri – Sebina in a keynote speech at the second 2019 Mkutano Economic Forum held at Sheraton Hotel, Kampala on Sept.12.

Sebina is a well-respected thought leader on innovation, urbanisation and the 4th industrial revolution.

On the other hand, Mkutano is a “Gathering for a Purpose” where open debate leads to solutions, according to David Ofungi, the brain behind the Mkutano.  This Mkutano edition was in line with the United Nation’s 9th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 9) that focuses on industry, innovation and infrastructure.

This year’s Forum was attended by slightly over 200 participants mainly from the private sector and research institutions. The focus this time around was on the role of Science, Technology and innovation in Economic Development.

Sebina told business leaders to understand their own institutions well, do what they can and organise to do it innovatively.

She added that investments in innovation should connect with research and development, human resource, capital development and physical infrastructure put in place by the private sector and the government.

The key drivers of innovation, she said, are research institutes, innovators, technology, entrepreneurs, knowledge brokers, innovation policymakers, local intermediates, innovation brokers and funding organisations.

“Focus on generating new knowledge and technologies and creating customer value,” she said.

From a policy angle, she said focus should be on the government to instil a culture of valuing science technology and innovation (STI), integrate STI into government planning and budgeting at the highest levels.

In addition, there has to be adoption of a whole-of-government approach to innovation, create an enabling and inclusive governance environment, create a more innovation-enabling environment,  increase and transform human capabilities, expand and transform the research system, expand and transform the institutional landscape and increase funding and funding efficiencies.

However, experts say for innovations to succeed, they have to be supported by the government through demand for products available on the market.

Sebina said innovation helps to address social and environmental challenges by contributing to economic growth and job creation. It also leads to improved competitiveness and is a major reason of why growth rates differ at the firm, regional and international level.

She said investments in science and technology should target formal enterprises, highly-skilled personnel and technology-intensive sectors.

Sebina added that STI should be done by carefully understanding the dynamic business sector, macro-economic stability, trade and investment, competition and tax policies.

There have to also be markets that encourage innovation and those that mobilise private funding for innovation through well-functioning financial markets.

The policy environment should target the private sector – entrepreneurs, corporations, investors, knowledge institutions, influencers, and the public sector in general.

Elioda Tumwesigye, the minister of Science Technology and Innovation agreed with Sebina, adding that sector innovations support economic growth and that the government is well aware of it.

He said, from a legal and regulatory angle, that the government is working on the automotive innovation policy and also championing the genetic engineering bill.

This development comes barely six months since the government approved the National Research and Innovation Programme Framework with the aim of encouraging creativity and supporting innovations in the country in March this year.

Barbra Mulwana, who represented the Uganda Manufacturers Association at the Forum said collaboration among sector players is important if innovations are to contribute growth of private sector firms and the economy.

“We cannot stay in silos anymore,” Mulwana said. She said they have formed a research technology and innovation board and that there are many ideas that are coming up in support of STI amongst the manufacturers.

She said that they are planning to work closely with innovation hubs and be able to link them to UMA members.

She also said efforts should be geared towards sensitizing the public on the use of ICTs and as an engine for growth.

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