The Minister of East African Community Affairs Rtd Gen. Kahinda Otafiire has urged the Inter University Council of East Africa (IUCEA), an intellectual institution that fosters collaboration between East African communities to pursue an integrated African team of scientists to facilitate countering future biological threats such as covid-19.
The Minister made these remarks at the golden jubilee celebrations of the IUCEA in Entebbe on Tuesday.
At the celebrations which coincided with the institution’s annual general meeting, intellectuals dedicated it to highlighting the success attained during the last 50 years and providing an opportunity for higher education stakeholders to strategize on the future of IUCEA.
Otafiire asked participants who included professors and government officials from the East African Community to work towards developing African scientists who can be retained and benefit the continent noting that if East Africa and African scientists had strategized earlier, they would have played an important role in the prevailing covid-19 situation.
“African scientists would have participated in the development of these vaccines but nobody recognizes their intellectual contribution and they rarely benefit to this intellectual contributions. This is because their intellectual contribution is exploited by the external elements who take advantage of the weakness of the African continent,” he noted.
Adding: “We cannot produce a vaccine not because we don’t have scientists but because we operate as individual states. If we came together as the African continent, the individual contributions of the African countries could constitute and construct their laboratory equivalent to those in European and Asian countries.”
Otafiire said that if African countries were working together, at this moment, East African countries could compete for the development of a vaccine where by Africa would also share the proceeds of selling that vaccine but as it is now, the vaccine has been developed, and the world doesn’t know what individual contributions of African Scientists are.
For instance, he noted, the new covid-19 vaccine is going to be sold to a population of probably 1.2 billion people on the continent but assuming a single dosage is sold at 3 US dollars that is about 3 billion dollars exiting the continent not considering the other logistics.
“However, if the African countries had invested that 3 billion in supplementing science and technology then the vaccine would be for Africa,” he argued.
“We have the brains but we have not given them tools. And that can only be pushed by bodies like the Inter University Council of East Africa and the Inter university council of Africa. In doing so, the scientists of Africa would push the African governments to build such facilities so that we stop this hemorrhage,” Otafiire said.
He further urged African leaders to also work together and build Regional governments and Continental governments.
“We Africans should realize that nobody owes us a living, our strengths is in our coming together like the developed western countries and this can be done by the intellectual class,” he added.
IUCEA’s Ag. Secretary Professor Mike Kuria said that they shall discuss this in their subsequent engagements to generate ideas that are going to be used to draw the institutions next plan and that strategic plan is going to be in line with IUCEA vision.
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