NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 17 – The government has been urged to prioritize funding of research in Kenyan tertiary institutions to enable local professionals come up with remedies for ailments such as the COVID-19 pandemic that had killed more than 2,000 people in Kenya by mid April.
Senior Medical Biochemistry Lecturer at the Kisii University Edwin Murungi says Kenya has enough brain power to come up with innovative solutions like vaccines and treatments to various diseases.
“We need to do better in terms of prioritising the health of our people, building robust systems from bottom up. Let us build the basic science and that basic science now will feed into the clinical science as well and it will translate into drugs, remedies and interventions for our people,” he said during an interview with Capital FM News but empasised on the need for political will.
The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is Kenya’s only national body responsible for carrying out health research in the country.
Murungi who is an awardee of the Grand Challenges Africa on drug scheme emphasized on the need for adequate research infrastructure and the training of scientists to undertake study at various levels.
The Grand Challenges Africa (GC Africa) programme seeks to promote Africa-led scientific innovations to help countries better achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by awarding seed and full grants to the continent’s most impressive solutions. It supports big, bold impactful innovative ideas that have a potential for impact, scale and sustainability
“By setting up the infrastructure I would suggest that we start up with funding academic discovery groups in universities. This is how you build the drug discovery pipeline because this academic research groups then will grow and if you fund several of them as they grow they will start talking to each other,” he said amid a major shortage of the COVID-19 vaccine globally.
Only China, US, Russia and the UK have so far produced vaccines said to be effective to manage the pandemic, but the fact that the crisis is worse in some of the countries has hampered the distribution. Only China has so far managed the pandemic and is already distributing and sharing its vaccine with more than 80 countries so far.
Kenya acquired 1.02 million doses of the AstraZenecca jab that is initially targeting healthcare workers, police, teachers and other vulnerable groups including people aged over 58.
Earlier this month, the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a terse statement accusing the UK of failing to share its vaccine in what it refered to as “vaccine apartheid”.
According to a 2018 study by CPS International, the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, and Moi University are the top public universities which are beneficiaries of research funding at Sh538 million, Sh457 million, and Sh302 million respectively.
Strathmore, Mount Kenya, and Aga Khan universities were also listed as top beneficiaries of research funding among private universities, the three listed as seventh, ninth, and tenth overall in the combined category of public and private universities.
The study captioned “The State of Research Funding in Kenyan Universities” indicated that the research endeavours for the three universities were funded to the tune of Sh100 million, Sh87 million, and Sh75 million respectively.
CPS International however, called for more funding with the current allocations for research falling far below 2 per cent of GDP, a threshold recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The National and County governments were singled out as key financiers of research in Kenyan universities at 68 per cent, with businesses and NGOs contributing 32 per cent.
According to the research, top 10 public universities in the 2018 academic year received a total of Sh1.5 billion in research funding compared to top ten private universities that received Sh117 million.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Egerton University, Maseno University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), University of Eldoret, Technical University of Kenya (TUK), and South Eastern Kenya University completed the top ten list of most funded public universities, the seven receiving Sh236.5 million, Sh122.4 million, Sh108 million, Sh90.6 million, Sh70.4 million, Sh50.1 million, and Sh27.2 million for research.
The United States International University (USIU), KCA University, Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), Management University of Africa, St. Paul’s University, African Nazarene University, and Daystar University completed the top 10 chart among private universities with Sh56 million, Sh51.7 million, Sh29.5 million, Sh25.5 million, Sh24 million, Sh23.8 million, and Sh22.8 million in research funding respectively.
The top 10 national universities received Sh611 million in research funding from businesses, NGOs and other donors.
The funding for top ten public universities from businesses, NGOs and other donors was reported at Sh464 million with that for top ten private universities placed at Sh496 million.
In the combined category for public and private universities, JKUAT was listed fourth most funded tertiary institution for research with Sh236.5 million.
Egerton University, Maseno University, and MMUST were listed fifth, sixth, and eighth, with Sh122.4 million, Sh108 million, and Sh90.6 million respectively.
In the non-State funding category, Kenyatta University, the University of Nairobi, and Strathmore University received the most funding at Sh95 million, Sh88 million and Sh78.8 million respectively.
Mount Kenya University, Aga Khan University, Moi University, JKUAT, KCA University, Egerton University, and USIU followed with a funding of Sh71 million, Sh65 million, Sh64 million, Sh53.7 million, Sh47 million, Sh43.6 million and Sh42 million from non-State actors respectively.
Overall, the University of Nairobi, Egerton University, and Kenyatta University received government capitation of Sh6.3 billion, Sh2.8 billion, and Sh3.1 billion in the 2017/18 financial year against an estimated student population of 26,009, 15,223, and 21,029 respectively.
JKUAT, TUK, Technical University of Mombasa, University of Nairobi, and Machakos University College received Sh1.7 billion, Sh1 billion, Sh0.77 billion, Sh1.1 billion and Sh0.34 billion respectively in government capitation against a student population of 12,029, 8,636, 4,520, 14,275, and 5,056.