Officially Opened by Principal Secretary, Higher Education, Prof. Japheth Michemi Ntiba

Under the theme: Harnessing Scientific Research, Innovation and Technology for sustainable development, the Machakos University 1st International Conference was officially opened today as planned by the Principal Secretary in charge of Higher Education, Prof. Japheth Michemi Ntiba, who represented the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education as Chief Guest, Amb. Amina Mohammed. The conference kicked off to a frenzy and full house audience. The conference has attracted participants from across the world, with renowned speakers and researchers gathering to deliberate on strategies to ensure prudent ways to maximize current opportunities and resources while being mindful of the future.

Besides the Principal Secretary in charge of higher education, other dignitaries who graced the official opening were key note speakers; Prof. Hammadi Boga, Principal Secretary, State Department of Agriculture Research, Prof. Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha, Chairman, Commission for University Education and Eng. John Tanui, the Chief Executive Officer, Konza Technopolis Development Authority. Chairman, Council of Machakos University, Dr. Charles Moturi Mechah led the rest of the council members in making the opening ceremony spectacular. Machakos University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Lucy Irungu led members of the Management Board in making the opening ceremony a success.

In his speech, Prof. Ntiba told participants and other invited guest that one way through which universities can contribute towards sustainable development is by defining higher education as leadership education. By leadership, he meant that universities need to produce people who are on the forefront of seeking solutions to challenges that afflict mankind. University staff and students need to be innovative not only in economic matters but also in ways to settle disputes and governance. He noted that its only by embracing research, innovation and technology in a holistic manner that sustainable development could be achieved.
While commenting Machakos University choosing a timely theme for the Conference, the Prof. Ntiba noted that the theme of this conference shows desires to realize sustainable development through scientific research, innovation and technology. It therefore reflects the unquestioned view that education is foremost a public good whose benefits spill over to all society. In the era marked by globalization and its profound impact, there is need to consider education as "a global common good" as only with such approach we can cope with global challenges such as technological transformation and shifting employment patterns, new information and communication technologies, environmental concerns and climate change, social and cultural transformation among other facets of development. This way, Machakos University, and Kenyan universities as a whole will have to position themselves in the forefront of seeking conceptual and practical solutions to daunting challenges by paying greater attention to their roles in contributing to global common goods.

Dr. Charles Moturi Mechah, Chairman, Council of Machakos University said that the Council will continue to promote infrastructure that can promote cutting-edge research in line with the three pillars of the Vision 2030 and the Government Big Four Agenda. The chairman remarked that “We hope to pursue lines that can increase research funding through grant writing and engagement with other development partners. Apart from research, we need to develop and/or adapt innovations that can improve the quality of life of our people.”

In her moving address, the Vice-Chancellor Machakos University Prof. Lucy Irungu noted that the domains and parameters of development have become more diverse and are so great in complexity and number that no one direction can be a panacea. Taking the example of the environment, and particularly climate change, the Vice-chancellor noted that its impact is so diverse that it could range from a simple family dispute all the way to an international armed conflict. “This implies that we need to use what we have while being mindful of others, now and beyond.” The Vice-chancellor said.

The Deputy Vice-chancellor (Research, Innovation and Linkages) Prof. Peter Mwita noted that with many research activities now taking on a global dimension, it is imperative to discuss approaches towards achieving sustainability in the facets of development broadly conceptualized to include socio- economic, political, moral and human growth. Prof. Mwita said that, “In socio-economic terms, people need and want earn a living that is beyond hand to mouth; political, people want people want good leadership and governance; moral people a virtuous life by appreciating character virtues among others. When it comes to research and academic conferences towards sustainability, the concern is on inculcating best research integrity practices, including examining the role of academic publications in setting the standards for sustainable development.”

Keynote Addresses

The three keynote speakers, Prof. Hamadi Boga, Eng. John Tanui and Prof. Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha made very moving addresses.

Prof. Boga mentioned noted that Africa lags behind in research and that this low performance in research is due to policies that seem to create tension on basic versus applied in which basic research seems to get less support.; University structures designed more for teaching, low capacities to manage research, weak human resource at the research management levels, lack of funding/Incentives for researchers. Other reasons identified by Prof. Boga for low research output in Africa are low local funding sources (except for South Africa), Donor driven/Donor dependence, the absence or low of industrial participation, Personnel (Hardly any postdoc schemes, Low number of PhDs, Shortage of peers, Brain drain vs brain gain, lack of Intra-Africa cooperation, poor infrastructure and low relevance of research. For these reasons, the Government is building synergies focused on harnessing scientific research, innovation and technology to realize sustainable development, especially for Kenya Vision 2030 and the Government Big Agenda. This include but not limited to the following:
• Identifying research gaps
• Reviewing funding Strategies
• Mobilizing and supporting research community
• Strengthening Research and Knowledge Partnerships with Counties
• Strengthening capacity Building
• Adoption of GIS for research and data collection/documentation
• Strengthening Collaboration
• Enhancing Information and Communication Technology networks
• Improving terms of service for Researchers
• Working with stakeholders and partners

Speaking on Innovation and Technology for Sustainable Cities, Eng. Tanui pointed out that for cities to be sustainable, they must recognize the role other development actors such as agricultural revolution, wealth creation, knowledge economy life style and technology. With growth in cities, comes problems of urbanization that become threats to the sustainability of cities, hence development. This include: Water shortage, Waste water management, Congestion, Climate change, Inequality and Housing. These challenges present opportunities for universities and researchers to generate and share knowledge that would yield solutions hence realizing sustainable development. He challenged participants to exploit technology transfer windows presented by the need to have sustainable cities.

Prof. Chacha, who is also the Chairman for Commission of University applauded the conference theme as it resonates quite well with what the Government of Kenya has articulated in Vision 2030 and more recently amplified as the ‘Big Four’ Agenda. These include: Food Security, Health, and Manufacturing and affordable Housing. This is what the Government has pronounced as the focus for the next five years. It is expected that all the sectors of the Government as well the private sector, will align their activities to these priority areas. The Professor mentioned that the contribution that Machakos International Conference is making to champion the Government’s agenda and promote research and innovation in higher education sector is quite evident. He said that the conference was playing a strategic role in guiding and fostering ideas, which are needed to improve scientific research, innovation and technology in the university sector. While quoting the words of the late renowned scholar, Prof. Calestous Juma, Prof. Chacha said:
“Africa’s most significant challenge is to invest in capacity building through enhanced education in science, technol¬ogy, engineering, and mathematics . . .Very few African universities have updated curricula or use teaching methods that promote innovation. . .. most universities still teach and confer degrees, whereas much of the world is experimenting with new university models that focus on transforming the economies of the regions in which they are located” (CUE, 1st Biennial Conference Proceedings, p.3,2018).

Note:More photos of the Conference will be found at the Conference Journal and Repository.

Dr. Wycliffe Amukowa, Ph.D
P. O. BOX 136-90100,