The Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) cemented its cooperation with two premier Korean institutions to help Sub-Saharan Africa build its capacity in science and technology fields.
At a recent meeting on November 27, 2016 in Kigali, the PASET Board of Directors welcomed the Korean Development Institute (KDI) as a full member, recognizing the great support provided by the institute to building a stronger African workforce in science and technology fields.
The Board includes Ministers from Governments of Rwanda, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire, as well as representatives from the World Bank, which facilitates the Partnership.
Prior to the meeting, PASET signed agreements with Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and Maastricht University from the Netherlands to improve the quality of PhD programs in African institutions selected under its flagship initiative, the PASET Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF). Korea’s Seoul National University (SNU) is expected to sign a similar agreement in coming weeks.
PASET was launched in 2013 by African governments to address systemic gaps in skills and knowledge in ASET fields, and to build African institutions’ capacity to train high quality technicians, engineers and scientists. Since then, over 20 African countries, the private sector, as well as representatives of Brazil, China, India and Korea have participated in its activities. The governments of Senegal, Rwanda and Ethiopia have taken the lead by seeding the RSIF, and have been joined by Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.
Hon. Dr. Papias Musafiri Malimba, Rwanda’s Minister for Education, welcomed the PASET Board to Kigali and said he is delighted with PASET’s progress thus far. “We see PASET’s partnership with Korea as a great milestone in our quest to build African universities into regional centers of scientific innovation,” he said. “Sub-Saharan Africa can learn a lot from Korea’s unique path to development, and Rwanda, along with its African partners, is ready to implement these lessons by growing its investment in higher education in ASET fields.”
The Government of Korea has been an enthusiastic supporter of PASET since its inception, actively engaging in knowledge sharing at its regional forums, especially through KDI which facilitated PASET’s connections with KIST and SNU. KDI also launched a 3-year Knowledge Sharing Program to strengthen some PASET member countries’ policy-making capacity in human resources development in science and technology.
“At the current pace of technology development and transfer, combined with the spread of the global community, countries cannot achieve development in isolation,” said Joon-Kyung Kim, President of KDI. “For years KDI has brought together government personnel from developing countries to study in Korea and share our development experience. We are proud to now be a part of PASET’s journey to train next generation leaders in Africa.”
Both KIST and SNU have extensive experience in enhancing global scientific research capabilities. Their collaboration with PASET, accompanied by Maastricht University, would help build a critical mass of African researchers and personnel through PhD training, exchange of researchers, joint innovation projects, and capacity development for African universities.
Dr. Byung Gwon Lee, President of KIST, said that PASET provides a unique opportunity to Korea and its African partners in forming “a mutually beneficial partnership, based on understanding, trust, and a desire to share scientific knowledge.”
Updates on PASET’s progress and governance
The Board meeting also shared updates with members on progress against its annual work plan goals, specifically on the operationalization of the PASET Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund. The RSIF envisages a 2-stage competitive selection of African universities, followed by selection of PhD scholars. An independent evaluation of university proposals is now complete, and final university names will be announced in coming weeks. The first cohort of scholars will be admitted around September 2017. Meanwhile, the selected universities will strengthen their PhD programs through joint curriculum development and faculty training projects with KIST, Maastricht University, SNU and other international partners.
Also at the meeting, the Board approved 10 members for PASET’s Consultative Advisory Group, a voluntary group of expert advisors. These include African and non-African experts with experience in leading ASET programs in higher education and technical-vocational education, as well as private sector representatives. Additionally, the Board reviewed a strategy to mobilize the private sector to support PASET’s objectives through training, research and innovation support. Proposals for developing regional TVET centers of excellence, another PASET initiative, and the next PASET forum were also finalized. Kenya will host the next forum in April 2017.
“This meeting marked several new leaps forward by PASET, which is now fully off the ground,” Professor Aminata Sall Diallo, head of PASET’s Executive Committee, concluded. “Our new partners and members will bring us closer to achieving our goal of building African universities into regional powerhouses of science and technology resources for the continent. We eagerly look forward to working with them."