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Kenyan vice-president commits to R&D spending target

William Ruto, Kenya's deputy president, has said that the government will commit Ksh90 billion (US$900 million) to research in the country's universities in the current financial year.

Ruto made the promise on 27 June when he addressed graduates at Daystar University on the outskirts of Nairobi during its 37th graduation ceremony. According to Ruto, the money will be channelled through the National Research Fund, which is in the process of being established.

Ruto said this will bring Kenya’s expenditure on research and development to two per cent of the GDP in the 2015/2016 budget.

The establishment of an NRF was included in Kenya’s 2013 Science and Technology Act. Previously, government had not divulged how much the 2015/2016 budget would allocate to the fund.

However, there is no explicit mention of the Ksh90bn figure in the 2015/2016 budget breakdown. The Department of Science and Technology’s total allocation is Ksh72bn, of which Ksh61.4bn is designated for “university education” and Ksh1.4bn for “research, science, technology and innovation”. Other government departments such as health are also allocated funds for R&D.

The budget document, drafted in April for the financial year ending on 30 June 2016, notes the “inadequate mobilization of funding towards research and development that is lagging toward achieving the required target of 2 per cent of GDP”.

The country’s 2010 R&D spending figure was pegged at 0.98 per cent of GDP. Academics have been sceptical of reaching the target, but government sources have consistently said it could be reached by 2015/2016.

“The NRF will soon be up and running. We are currently in the process of appointing trustees to the fund,” Ruto told the gathering.

Previously the government has committed Ksh400 million per year via the National Council for Science and Technology for research purposes at universities.

Ruto said that the government has taken steps to ensure graduates have hands-on experience through the establishment of an internship programme that encourages the private sector to take in graduates from middle-level colleges and universities.

“We have gone further to give tax incentives to private companies that have embraced this internship programme,“ he noted.