Thursday, 9th March 2023
It was a day of glamour and excitement as President Yoweri K. Museveni flanked by the first lady and minister of Education and Sports laid a foundation stone for the proposed National Science Technology Engineering and Innovation Centre (NSTEIC) at Rwebiteete, Kiruhura District on Wednesday March 8,2023.
The centre sitting on 45 acres along the Masaka-Mbarara highway, is a training-for innovation platform intended to enhance the technological and innovative base of Ugandans through Innovation and Design Hubs that will act as Flexible Learning Workshops/Factories.
Speaking to high profile dignitaries including the Vice President Maj.(Rtd)Jessica Alupo immediately after unveiling the foundation stone in front of the centre administration block, the President government will build a foundry which is a key component of an engineering centre in manufacturing of various products.
He was responding to a concern by the minister of Science Technology and Innovation-Office of the President (STI-OP) Dr. Monica Musenero that it had become impossible to obtain the foundry due to technology transfer restrictions under the current support from EXIM bank of China. “It is therefore our prayer that the government commits own resources to acquire a foundry and the operationalization of Center: The issue of the foundry had initially been included in the project which is funded with a loan from the Exim Bank of China and counterpart financing from Government of Uganda. The President explained that a foundry is like a furnace (ekirubi in Runyankole) where raw materials or ores are heated to manufacture various products.
Mr. Museveni said the idea of the centre was conceived about 20 years ago and supported by partners from China and Malaysia. He added that NSTEIC is like the Law Development Centre (LDC)where lawyers learn practical skills or a place for internship where medical students put in practice the learnt theories.
Commenting on the 90 % budget cuts for the STI-OP as reported by Dr. Musenero, the President assured the nation that no one will cut the budget arguing that “We need to put more into science and technology and not less. We do what we should not be doing and leave what we should do,” he observed amidst cheers and ululations from the audience.
Earlier, Dr. Musenero explained that the centre will be different from vocational institutions and universities because it targets to provide trainees with precision and practical skills. She said Ugandans will be able to substitute various imported items by producing thins we have not been making such as molds to produce plastics and machine parts.
The colorful function during which the President planted a historic tree at the centre also was graced by cabinet ministers, Uganda’s High commissioner to Tanzania, Col. Fred Mwesigye, State House Comptroller, Mrs. Jane Barekye, Kiruhura chairman Mr. Dan Mukago, Kiruhura RDC, Mr. George Bakunda, Nyabushozi county MP, Hon.Wilson Kajwengye, Kiruhura District NRM chairman Mr. Shadrack Nzaire, members of the UNCST Governing Council, Executive Director UNCST, Dr. Martin Ongol, Dr.Cosmas Mwikirize from STI-OP, STI-OP undersecretary Mr. Peter Aurien, Project Coordinator NSTEI-SEP, Mr. Anthony Okimat Opolot, management and staff of the UNCST.
Below is a full statement from the Minister of STI-OP
Your Excellency, on behalf of the Science, Technology and Innovation Sector, the Science, Technology and Innovation – Office of the President (STI-OP) and our partners and stakeholders, and on my own behalf, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to you for gracing this occasion. We appreciate you for taking time to lay the Foundation Stone for the National Science Technology Engineering and Innovation Centre (NSTEIC). It is a clear indicator of your continued belief in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Innovations as a key driver in transforming our Country from a peasant to a modern Country.
Your Excellency, let me briefly describe what this program and project is about. You may recall, that in 2021, you outlined the eight areas where science should focus in contributing to productivity acceleration, import substitution and enhancing value added exports. Among those eight areas was what your termed Infrastructure Innovations – in other words enhancing the Engineering Capacity of Ugandans. This project is designed to contribute to that effort.
This National Science Technology Engineering and Innovation Skills Enhancement Project, implemented by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) has three major components:
a.The Skills program The National Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation Center (NSTEIC), Rwebitete, Kiruhura District
b.Technology Innovation Business Incubation Center (TIBIC) at Namanve, Mukono District
c.The Technical Service Center (TSC) which you launched on 24th January 2023 at Kikuube during the commission of the Oil Rig at Kingfisher oil field.
To enhance the technological and innovative base of Ugandans to participate in national infrastructural projects and manufacturing industries.
Exim Bank of China, AVIC-INTL Project Engineering Company (AIPEC)
The Skilling Program
Your Excellency, I do not need to belabour explaining why this skilling program is critical to our nation at this time? Your strategic guidance to the country is to embrace industrialization and knowledge-based production systems. Your excellency this implies having capacity to design, manufacture, install and operate precision machines and systems. While we have through your leadership greatly expanded access to Engineering training at University and Vocational institutions across the country, there has been a gap in our ability to impart what we call Precision Engineering Skills essential for designing, manufacturing, installation, and operation of infrastructural and industrial projects. This is not only critical for enabling Ugandans participate in national infrastructural development projects, but at the same time supporting the Ugandan scientists and innovators to commercialize viable research and development outputs.
Your Excellency, this Center differs from ordinary Vocational or University training programs in that it is planned as a “Engineering Development Center” built on a model similar to Law Development Center. It takes in those who have completed the formal training at University or Vocational Training Centers to horn their precision skills in their areas of specialization. Therefore it has three unique features.
a. Learning Factory Model (Learn by Producing Model), therefore providing an actual manufacturing environment for training, research and production. The center will train Engineers to design and produce products (Design for Manufacturing and Assembly) using state-of-the-art equipment.
b. Participation in Local Infrastructure Projects: The center will develop capacity by providing opportunity for Ugandans to participate in like Road Construction, Electricity Distribution and Oil & Gas Pipeline Construction to reduce on the country’s foreign expertise dependency in these areas.
c. Provision of specialized engineering and technical support services to companies and individuals to support local engineering start-up companies and especially the MSMEs. The Centre is to promote the advancement of manufacturing industry. Your Excellency, using precision equipment, the center will produce Moulds for plastic products, Engine Cylinder Heads, Car Rims, Gears and Shafts among others most of which are imported, their local production will boost the plastics and automotive industry.
Your Excellency, you have continually emphasized how important having skills – emyooga are in transforming lives of wananchi, promoting inclusivity and your presence here today is testament to the commitment you and the NRM Government have to changing the lives of Ugandans.
Your Excellency we are currently working on the operationalization strategies for the center include comprehensive public mobilization and engagement strategies, partnerships with agencies like the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), Building Review Board (BRB) and institutions like the Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers (UIPE) and Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA); These will recommend to Engineers, Technicians and manufacturers to come for the offerings at the center. The center will also put-up calls for upskilling and re-tooling to attract potential candidates. The center will also consider recommendations from special interest groups like the leaders of the Parish Development Model.
Your Excellency, once fully operationalized the country will benefit from the following expected outcomes;
i. 1,200 Ugandans equipped with precision industrial skills per year hence improved employability and participation in industrial jobs.
ii. 1,300 jobs created per year hence improved livelihood of the local communities and nationals.
iii. Import substation for many engineering products
iv. Local participation in infrastructure projects and reduction in foreign dependency.
Your Excellency today as we commemorate International Women’s Day and lay the Foundation for the NSTEIC, we wish to highlight some of the ways in which the Women have and stand to benefit from this investment by the Government of Uganda.
Your Excellency, during the construction phase, the center has only managed to employ 8% women from Kiruhura and surrounding districts. This reflects the challenges we still have in getting women to participate in engineering projects.
The centers will among others provide tailor-made programs, targeting high precision manufacturing technologies, such as design and Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Programming that demand the attention to detail, which women tend to have.
In addition, at least 15% of the Ugandans targeted for the Training of Trainers are women. We would have desired to have at least 30%, but the scarcity of women at this level has made it difficult to identify more suitable candidates. However, once operational, the training programs will reserve 40% of the openings for women.
Your Excellency, it is in plan to subsidize the costs of training for applicants from Kiruhura and surrounding districts to enable the local communities appreciate the Government investment in STI.
As I conclude, Your Excellency, in order for the center to operate efficiently, there are just a few prayers have:
a. To fast -track mineral beneficiation in the country. This center will mean local consumption of finished mineral products such as steel, aluminum and copper products a highly demanded raw materials. We therefore request that we fast track plans for local processing of our minerals to produce these key inputs.
b. To consider the entire precision machining value chain which requires a foundry to produce raw materials for machining.
With the existing mineral ores in the country, having a foundry would make the center a key consumer of extracted and processed minerals. The lack of foundry means that the raw materials like steel and aluminum will have to be sourced out to facilitate production of intended products. Your Excellency, although initially included in the project, and although I negotiated very hard, it became impossible to obtain the foundry due to technology transfer restrictions under the current support from EXIM bank of China. It is therefore our prayer that the government commits own resources to acquire a foundry and the operationalization of Center.
c. Your Excellency, you moved STI to be under your office for your direct oversight. Whereas the civil works, equipment and initial training of trainers is funded by a loan from Exim Bank, the rest of the activities, including the operations and management of this facility is funded from the budgetary allocations.
We expect the work to be completed by July 2023 and the facility handed over to us by November 2023. Your Excellency, we are at risk of coming to a standstill with this centre if the current 90% budget cut to STI is implemented.
Your Excellency, let me take this opportunity to appreciate the support from EXIM Bank of China, the Project Contractor AVIC-INTL Project Engineering Company, Ministry of Works and Transport Imparqt Associates, and Kiruhura Local Government; they have made this project a possibility.
Your Add Appreciation to Exim Bank and AVVIC the contractors. And the target date for completion
Lastly, I would like to assure your excellency and the nation, about the commitment of the Science, Technology and Innovation Secretariat at Office of the President to ensuring that Your Agenda for Science-Led Socio-economic transformation is fully implemented.
I Thank you.
For God and My Country