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Huawei, Safaricom in varsities skills pact

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 6 – Three leading Kenyan universities have partnered with Safaricom and telecoms solutions provider Huawei, in a move that will increase the skills of engineering students being churned out of the institutions.

The technology transfer Memorandum of Understanding with University of Nairobi, Moi University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology will help to bridge the mismatch that exists between the skills acquired by graduates from the universities and the demands of the job market in the country.

Under the MoU, the students will benefit from advanced training in latest telecommunication technologies through Huawei\’s training centre situated along Mombasa Road.

"We are looking forward to having our students attached to get the high-end technology that is coming from industries and that we are not able to give them at the university," said JKUAT Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension Prof Esther Kahangi.

Besides transferring the latest technology to students, the don appealed for attachment programmes in companies such as Huawei in order to impart the know-how and expertise that can enable them to stay updated.

The collaboration, through which over 4,500 students are expected to have received certified training from the Huawei centre in the next few years, will also see the universities curricula reviewed.

Lauding the agreement as a welcome initiative, Higher Education Secretary Prof Harry Kaane decried the small number of engineers in the country saying this figure must be increased if Kenya is to achieve rapid development in the next two decades.

"We just have 6,000 qualified engineers in Kenya but we must move this number to 8,000 in the medium term," he said adding that this could be achieved for instance by increasing the enrolment in science and engineering courses in the universities.

This lack of appropriate and technical skills in not only the engineering field but the entire job market has been a challenge that the government and private sector players have grappled with for a long time.

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To address the challenge however, Prof Kaane disclosed that the government is setting up centres of excellence that will help produce a critical mass of task-oriented and well trained human resource for all the different sectors of the economy.

Safaricom Director of Corporate Affairs Nzioka Waita suggested that the government should also pay greater attention to the use of ICT as a basic tool for learning from the early years of Kenyan children through to tertiary levels.

"If indeed as a country we are relying upon our Vision 2030 as the roadmap to being a truly industrialised nation capable of controlling the innovation, production and utilisation of cutting edge technology then we must take a moment to reflect," Mr Waita said.

ICT, he added, could also be used to generate several hundred thousand sustainable jobs for the youth and therefore have them contribute immensely to the growth of the country.

And to leverage on Kenya\’s ability and drive to innovate, the Safaricom manager said that together with the universities, they would launch the \’Telecom Seed for the Future Program\’ which aims to offer expert training, internship programs as well as facilitating software development.

Through this program, he hoped that local developers will come up applications that can help address the challenges that Kenyans face.

His sentiments were echoed by Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo who said that the country has become a hub for mobile applications driven largely by the increased usage of smart phones.

He forecasted that in two years, 90 percent of all mobile phones in use in the country would be smart phones thus the need to ensure the development of relevant applications that can help improve the well-being of ordinary Kenyans.

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