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Scientific and Industrial Research and Development in Kenya
Scientific and Industrial Research and Development in Kenya PDF Print E-mail
Kenya Chapter

This section summarizes the presentations and discussions of the workshop papers by scholars drawn from public and private universities in Kenya.
2.1 Scientific and Industrial Research and Development in Kenya

(K. M. Khanna)

The first paper by Prof. Khanna of Moi University entitled Scientific and Industrial Research and Development in Kenya contends that scientific and industrial research must progress simultaneously and that industrial research cannot be done without a strong base in the basic science research. He notes that the discoveries of the basic sciences are utilized in industrial research, and both are utilized in industrial production. He observes that curiosity-driven research is called science, and the application of the scientific discoveries to development is called technology. He stressed that there is no such thing as disconnected science and technology. Nonetheless, he counsels that developing the connections between science and technology demands great skills.

The author goes further to state that scientific research results in inventions and that technological efforts lead to innovations. These days, society demands a quick correlation between invention and innovation such that society at large or humanity would benefit from the interaction between science and technology. He contends that a by-product of the interaction between science and technology is industrialization, and this is a must for any nation that wants to enhance its potential and riches. The target set for Kenya for industrialization is 2020. The efforts towards industrialization can lead to socio-economic transformation resulting in prosperity. Basic requirements for this are the development of novel materials, the establishment of industries that may use these novel materials, the development of steel industry and special steel for nuclear and fusion reactors, the development of super-conducting materials and super-conducting power plants as well as photovoltaic technology, to mention only a few.

The paper further contends that scientists will have to decide on the thrust area of industrialization that will lead to socio-economic progress. Thrust area of industrialization will demand the establishment of basic, medium and heavy industries. It is suggested that to achieve the goal of industrialization, scientists at industrial research institutes will have to divide the industrial progress into phases of approximately five years. In the first phase, research institutions will have to be established which are of relevance or capable of strengthening the existing ones, and then establish basic industries that will act as feeder industries to the medium and heavy industries. In the third and fourth phases, heavy industries will have to be established and simultaneously, the know-how developed by science and the research institutions will have to be utilized.

Nonetheless, it should be remembered that, using primitive methods or primitive social structures and time- and resources-wasting devices of the past couldn't achieve modern industrialization. There is, therefore, the need for developing fast decision-taking skills and changing the working habits of people.

The paper laments further that the current international standards are set by the developed nations. Hence, unless the quality of scientific research and industrial products comes up to the standards set by them, it is not recognized. Thus, the scientists and technologists in Kenya will have to work hard to raise the standards to match them with the international standards.

In conclusion, the paper notes that Kenyan scientists and technologists will have to establish quality assurance laboratories with the latest equipment and know-how. Once this is done, the goods produced in Kenya can compete in the world market - an important requirement for economic transformation in Kenya.

Comments and questions were raised on Prof. Khanna's presentation. The issues raised by participants were that Prof. Khanna's paper did not adequately discuss the role of social scientists in the whole scientific and industrial process of development. It was noted that Kenya had set the year 2020 to achieve technological development. Yet, the paper did not discuss the trends in political and socio-economic development and how these trends could affect the desired technological development.

Responding to the issues raised, Prof. Khanna argued that the physical scientists and the social scientists need to create a conducive working relationship in order to overcome the technological challenges brought about by rapidly changing political and socio-economic landscape in the country.

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