Germany scales up use of ICT gadgets in East Africa

It will spend Euros 1.384 million on grooming experts


The main campus of the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) based in Arusha, Tanzania.

SATURDAY September 7, 2019

By Joe Lihundi

Tranguility News Reporter, Arusha

Germany will invest Euros 1.384 million in building the capacity of human resources in embedded systems and mobile computing technologies in East African Community (EAC) partner states.

The support aims at enabling residents of the six-member bloc to catch up with the rest of the world in application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

One of the targets of the EAC Industrialisation Policy (2012-2032) being developing capability in research and development and technology and innovation; embedded and mobile technologies are billed to be the driving force in the modern industrial revolution.

The German government already has, through its Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, and the EAC, put up a state-of-the-art Centre of Excellence in ICT for East Africa (CENIT@EA) in Arusha ready for carrying out research and innovations on embedded and mobile systems tailor-made for the region.

The centre is expected to significantly contribute to solving challenges in various socio-economic growth sectors, including electronic money transfer, security systems, industries, transport, electronic gadgets sector, agricultural irrigation schemes and automotive industry.

Main entrance of the newly launched Centre of Excellence for ICT in East Africa (CENIT@EA) at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTOS | JOE LIHUNDI

Giving an overview of the project, the CENIT@EA co-coordinators, Dr Michael Kisangiri and Prof Jorge Gomez, said unlike the general purpose computer, an embedded system was one or a series of software attached to a computer hardware dedicated to a specific function.

Going by the Uganda Revenue Authority statistics, residents of the single EAC partner state imported ICT equipment worth $1.8 billion between 2011 and 2016, approximately $360 million per year.

The German Agency for International Cooperation, GIZ, is implementing the programme in collaboration with the German Academic Exchange Services, DAAD, on behalf of its government and the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) on behalf of the bloc.

The School of Computational and Communication Sciences and Engineering (CoCSE) is hosting the centre along with two others jointly funded by the World Bank and the EAC partner states at Nelson Mandela Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha.

“This is a place where we have a conducive environment to groom high-level knowledgeable people to conduct research but also to move from research finding to marketing of the research in the community,” the IUCEA Executive Secretary, Professor Alexandre Lyambabaje, said during the launching of the CENIT@EA.

Tanzania’s Education Minister, Professor Joyce Ndalichako, and the Coordinator of the Centre of Excellence for ICT in East Africa (CENIT@EA), Prof Jorge Gomez, unveil a plaque to officially launch the centre in Arusha recently.

He said the project was integrated into programmes of NM-AIST for both public and private sector and industry to own it.

The project came out through a competitive process to select a consortium composed by three universities from the bloc and two from Germany.

The successful East African universities were NM-AIST, University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Technology and Arts from Rwanda.

“We have recently funded an incubation centre at NM-AIST to facilitate commercialisation of research findings of these centres of excellence,” he added.

The NM-AIST Council Acting Chairman, Prof Lughano Kusiluka, said the centre would address unemployment and brain drain by offering courses of the same quality with those pursued in Europe, US, Japan and elsewhere.

Professor Joyce Ndalichako, the Tanzania’s Minister for Education and Vocational Training, addresses media practitioners shortly after launching the Centre of Excellence for ICT in East Africa (CENIT@EA) in Arusha recently.

NM-AIST invited scholars from around the world to teach and oversee thesis of students at Masters and PhD levels, making the students’ thesis to be of high and internationally accepted quality, he said.

“This approach reduces the cost of recruiting experts from overseas and paying them big salaries, and has enabled NM-AIST to be capable of generating attractive projects write-ups to donors,” he said, noting:

“There will be no reasons for East Africans to study overseas where our youth are being humiliated.”

Mr John Mbonimpaye, a representative of the first intake of the embedded system class, expect the course would enable the tutorial assistant not only to graduate to an assistant lecturer, but also to develop devises East Africans needed.

“Thank God I got this highly competitive opportunity,” he said. Save for South Sudan, over 500 youth from across the bloc applied for the courses, but only 27 were picked, two of them self-sponsored.

One of the beneficiaries displays clean and safe water purified by Nanofilter, a prototype developed at Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) based in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTO | LIBRARY

Mr Mbonimpaye said the successful candidates did not apply a rocket science, as they only adhered to application instructions, including attaching relevant credentials and a motivational letter of about 300 words each.

The Tanzania Education Minister, Prof Joyce Ndalichako, who officiated at the launching of the centre, directed NM-AIST to ensure students from South Sudan were present next intake.

“Even youth from Burundi applied very late due to language barrier,” said Prof Emmanuel Luoga, the NM-AIST Vice Chancellor.

Besides bringing on board students from each partner state, Prof Luoga promised to strike gender balance next intake, calling on youth across the bloc to apply for the course.

Prof Ndalichako apologised for a lengthy process which saw the intake start class in June 2019 instead of October 2018. “I understand the implications of this delay on the scholarship scheme to our donors,” Prof Ndalichako regretted.

Dr Askwar Hilonga, a Tanzanian engineer who invented Nanofilter, a low-cost water filter, at work.

She, however, requested Germany to consider extending the scholarship scheme, which is planned to support only two initial cohorts.

“We promise to oversee the project to ensure our academicians, students, administrative staff and the institution work hard both theoretically and practically, but most important innovatively,” she vowed.

Prof Ndalichako called on the enrolled students to demonstrate talents, passion and affection in a bid to leave a mark to the institution and their countries.

“I firmly believe at the end of your studies; communities, educational stakeholders and the industry will leap from your skills and knowledge gained,” she said.

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