Address delivered during FORUM III
by Mr Sammy P. M. Kyuwgu, S.S.
We approach the eve of the coming millennium with the recognition that the human being, who is but a minute part of creation, has developed, through intellect and innovations, capabilities that have vastly improved the welfare of mankind in many parts of the world.
The ability to think, by human beings, and, therefore, to plan and to be innovative in a manner beyond other living creatures, has led to the exploration and exploitation of, not only our immediate environment, but the extensions of outer space as well. Indeed, to paraphrase the philosopher Ashley Montague,
The mind is our greatest asset as a species, but it also poses as our greatest threat.
The advances in science and technology have led to the production of materials and systems in the service of man. This has unfortunately been accompanied at times by some harmful products not only to man himself, but also to the larger environment. As we strive to develop and apply technology to improve the welfare of our peoples, we have to be keenly aware, and to prevent the deleterious effects these technologies may impinge on us and on the environment.
The Government of Kenya, through Sessional Paper No. 2 of 1996, decided that our country should evolve and transform into a Newly Industrialized Country (NIC) by the year 2020. To achieve this, the utilisation of scientific knowledge is imperative. As the existing and yet to be discovered knowledge in the various areas of science and technology is applied, it is important that the environment be protected. To this effect, Kenya is in the process of enacting an Environmental Management and Co-ordination Bill 1999 establishing an appropriate legal and institutional framework for the management of the environmental and matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.
The Bill provides inter alia for:
The Bill also establishes a Tribunal to deal with Environmental Offences.
With regard to scientific research, Kenya enacted a Bill in 1980 on science and technology to establish machinery for the co-ordination of research, advising the Government upon all matters relating to scientific and technological activities and to oversee the research necessary for the proper development of the country.
The Bill established a National Council for Science and Technology and provided for the establishment of research institutes. Research activities in science are being carried out in these institutes as well as in the universities.
We are well aware that, in addition to scientific progress, which has occurred over the years, there is a Major Revolution which is well underway in the area of Genomics. The Genomics Revolution embraces developments in molecular and cell biology, which have spawned new paradigms for the application of areas of science, especially biology, which have potential for enabling African countries to exploit our gene-rich continent for the socio-economic development of our people. To succeed in doing so, application of techniques in genomics in solving the human and animal health problems and improving agricultural productivity in Africa, will be, in the mid- and long-term, a most efficacious way of achieving the important objective of alleviation of poverty. This is an opportune time for African countries to take advantage of the new paradigms that are falling into place to encourage regional concerted efforts in addressing major disease entities and constraints in agricultural productivity afflicting the developing world. The opportunities for co-operation in our research efforts and the application of outcomes of a scientific revolution have never been better.
It is becoming increasingly clear that development in Africa (and elsewhere) will be positively influenced by the extent to which countries on the continent can embrace these novel developments in genomics and incorporate them into development programs. We wish to thank UNESCO for the initiative taken by the Director-General himself and by the Molecular and Cell Biology Network (MCBN) for its contribution to this continental effort, which, above all, will allow us to pool both human and material resources in addressing our common problems.
Research activities should eventually lead to innovation and intellectual property, which need to be used in socio-economic development. Innovation and discovery would only be useful if shared among scientists for furtherance of knowledge and with industry for productivity. The sharing of information is normally through publication in journals whilst the utilization such innovations is through patents. The Government of Kenya is enacting a Bill: Industrial Property Bill 1999 for:
Arising from the challenge during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995, the Kenyan delegation to the 28th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO (November 1995) made a request to the Director-General for the establishment of three UNESCO Chairs in Kenya. I feel honoured to inform the members that Kenya is the only country in Africa with three UNESCO chairs distributed as follows: Bioethics chair at Egerton University, Science, Education and Technology chair at Moi University and Womens Education, Community Health and Sustainable Development chair at Nairobi University.
A further major factor arising from scientific development is the multiplication of the environmental problems that weigh on the future of our planet.
The results are extinction of species arising from pollution of air and water, new epidemics, ozone depletion, lack of rain and drought in some areas, the greenhouse effect and other ecological disasters.
In order to take preventive measures against such disasters, Kenya has established a cadre of environment officers based in each district to monitor any environmental changes and to mobilize the efforts of local communities towards environmental conservation.
the recent move by the World Solar Commission Secretariat to invite African Member States to submit high national priority projects for funding under the African Solar Programme for 1996 to 2005 came at a time when many African countries were undergoing energy crises. This came at a time when Kenya was formulating special policies to improve and develop education for nomadic pastoral communities where children of school-going age look after cattle up to late afternoon and, therefore, attend classes at up to 10.00 p.m. in the night. The Kenya delegation is pleased to inform the members that UNESCO generously contributed towards a project on the use of solar energy for enhancement of literacy among nomadic pastoral groups and pockets of poverty. This has been a most welcome contribution and we will continue in these efforts.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, the Kenya Government strongly endorses the utilization of scientific knowledge for the advancement of mankind, peace, protection of the environment, national development and the development of society globally.