From left: National Commission for Science and Technology Chief Executive Walter Oyawa, Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority Director General James Keter and Deputy Director Isaac Mundia, and Kenyatta University Dean Michael Gicheru attending a graduation ceremony.

Local experts want the government to upscale the application of science and research to make the country competitive in emerging technology adoption.

Takle problems

They say that in Kenya’s quest for industrialisation, research will help tackle problems such as climate change and pollution and improve the quality of life for the public.

Prof. Walter Oyawa, the CEO of the National Commission for Science and Technology, together with Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority Director James Keter made the call during the graduation of specialists in nuclear and radiation safety at Kenyatta University on Thursday.

The graduation saw 20 students from various counties feted, having satisfactorily completed the six-month high level post graduate training sponsored by the International Atomic Energy through the Kenya nuclear regulator.

“It’s good that matters of technology are now getting traction, starting with establishment of the presidential advisory council on science and technology, and two weeks ago President William Ruto appointed a special envoy on technology for the first time.” said Prof. Oyawa.

Missing Link

He said the missing link in harnessing technology is failure by relevant arms to effectively communicate the benefits to the public. “Sometimes when you hear the word nuclear, you think of bombs. Our communication should be about the skills, the mindset and the culture,” he added.

Mr Keter said that all over the world, countries were keen on peaceful application of nuclear and radiation, saying the benefits lie in adept technology adoption and transfer together with effective regulation that ensures protection of lives, environment and property.

“KNRA continues to work with all stakeholders here and across the region. As a regulator, we are leaving nothing to chance even as we look forward to pursuing our ambitions nuclear programme,” Mr Keter told the press.

He said Kenya was privileged to have successfully run the IAEA course, becoming the second country after Ghana to host it in Africa. The post-graduate programme targets English-speaking countries. The next course will start in October 2025.

Kenya got the greenlight to host the course after a multi-agency team of nuclear experts visited the country in August last year and ascertained its preparedness in terms of facilities, laboratories and resource persons.

The team stablished that Kenya has a number of public universities with fully-fledged departments running nuclear physics and nuclear science and technology programmes with equipped laboratories and lecturers with requisite training.

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Robust regulatory safeguards

Mr Keter said the five-month training is meant for professionals at graduate level or equivalent and aims at building African countries’ capacity to put in place robust regulatory safeguards in the field of nuclear and radiation safety.

Apart from Kenyatta University, other local higher education institutions and hospitals including the University of Nairobi, Multimedia University and Kenyatta National Hospital took part in programme that consisted of lectures, practical exercises, laboratory exercises, demonstrations and technical visits premised on the IAEA standard syllabus.

KNRA board chairman Omondi Anyanga termed the successful completion of the course a game-changer. “We continue to asset ourselves as a powerhouse in knowledge generation and sharing. KNRA will relentlessly work with various partners to ensure safety of person and the environment remains top priority,” he said.

IAEA, an affiliate of the UN, runs several other capacity building programmes, including an internet reactor lab that enable students from Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia and South Africa to get online access to the facilities of a research reactor in Morocco for nuclear education and training.