KIGALI, December 8, 2016 – The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has become the latest academic partner to commit its support to help close Sub-Saharan Africa’s skills gap in sciences, engineering and technology.
KIST recently signed an agreement with the Africa-led Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), to help implement its flagship initiative, the PASET Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF). Driven by African governments, RSIF aims to accelerate the creation of a skilled and high-quality labor force to propel Africa’s socioeconomic transformation. The PASET board approved a similar agreement with Seoul National University (SNU), which will be signed in coming weeks.
Dr. Byung Gwon Lee, President of KIST, said PASET provides a unique opportunity to Korea and its African partner countries in forming “a mutually beneficial partnership, based on understanding, trust, and a desire to share scientific knowledge.” He added that KIST, a multidisciplinary research and development institute, is looking forward to sharing its experiences in research and development with its African counterparts.
In recent years, Korea has shown a growing interest in sharing lessons from its transformation from an aid recipient to a donor country. In particular, it has become a strong ally of African countries, assisting in the region’s socioeconomic progress while exploring greater business opportunities for its companies.
Less than a quarter of students in African universities are enrolled in science, engineering and technology programs, despite a rapidly growing need for homegrown professionals in industrial, agricultural and health sectors. In 2013, the PASET was launched by African countries with facilitation by the World Bank to tackle Sub-Saharan Africa’s enormous skills gap in those areas.
Both KIST and SNU are national pioneers in science and technology research, particularly in information technology, and are actively engaged in enhancing research capabilities and expertise across the world. The institutions will share their knowledge through a training program for PhD, postdoctoral students and faculty by offering a “sandwich program.” The sandwich program includes partial training of the PhD scholars at the institutes’ location in Seoul. As part of this training, students at RSIF’s selected African universities will be supported in research by KIST and SNU. The sandwich program will provide a model for similar programs for RSIF with other global universities.
“We are honored to host this important meeting to further the partnership with Korea to improve the capacity of African universities through PASET’s scholarship program,” said Hon. Dr. Papias Musafiri Malimba, Rwanda’s Minister of Education and member of PASET’s Board. “We see PASET’s partnership with Korea as a great milestone in our quest to build African universities into regional centers of scientific innovation.”
In the lead up to this exciting new partnership, the Korean government and its institutions have been actively engaged in cooperation with PASET. The Government of Korea established a trust fund to finance some of PASET’s initiatives, while the Korea Development Institute (KDI) has actively participated in its regional forums. In 2015, KDI, which recently became a full member of PASET’s Board, hosted a visit for PASET’s technical executive committee to explore collaboration with top Korean academic institutions with research training capabilities in applied science, engineering and technology (ASET) and technical vocational education and training (TVET) fields – facilitating connections with KIST and SNU as a result. KDI also initiated a three-year knowledge-sharing program to strengthen capacity for policy-making in human resources for science and technology in some PASET member countries.
“The world is changing fast around us, and at this 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 to share Korea’s economic development experience. We are proud to be a part of PASET’s journey to train next generation leaders in Africa.”
Professor Aminata Sall Diallo, Executive Director of the PASET Executive Committee said she was thrilled about the great potential of this collaboration.
“The ideas for innovation that come out of this cooperation shall go a long way in harnessing the potential in African students and institutions to develop new products and processes needed by the African countries,” she said. “We hope that more countries planning to invest in the African market and economy will follow Korea’s example and join in.”