Kenya and South Korea will Tuesday sign a pact that will see the Asian nation contribute Sh10 billion to set up a public research university at Konza Techno City as President Park Geun-hye starts her two-day visit to Nairobi.
Ministry of Education officials are Tuesday morning expected to ink the deal with the Korean Export and Import (Exim) Bank that will open the way for the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) to set up shop at Konza.
Kaist is a public research university in the industrialised Asian nation, which Kenya is keen to emulate.
Kenyan government officials have recently shifted focus to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses in institutions of higher learning in the quest to create a large pool of specialists to industrialise the economy by 2030.
“We are going to build from scratch an equivalent of Kaist at an estimated cost of $100 million (Sh10 billion),” said Victor Kyalo, the principal secretary for ICT, which is in charge of the Konza smart city.
The Korean university last September announced it was in talks with the Ministry of Education and the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA), which is overseeing the project, on how to set up at Konza.
President Geun-hye arrived in Nairobi on Monday and is expected to hold discussions with President Uhuru Kenyatta on trade, investment, infrastructure and education.
“The information and communication’s technology field, which both Korean and the Kenyan governments have been assiduously nurturing, can be an important area of such co-operation,” she said in an opinion piece in the dailies ahead of her visit.
“I hope that Korean Government’s creative economy initiative, in which advanced science and technology is implemented across the industries can create jobs further develop the national economy, will contribute to the Kenyan Government efforts to achieve Vision 2030,” she added.
Kaist is funded by the Korean government to exploit science and technology through research and development, to keep the wheels of the industrialised nation running. Bilateral trade between Nairobi and Seoul is tilted in favour of the Asian economy.
Official data shows that Kenya imported goods worth Sh18.8 billion from Korea last year compared with Sh1.7 billion that Nairobi sold to Seoul. Imports from Korea are the fifth largest from Asia, behind China, India, Indonesia and Japan.
Kenya’s imports from Korea stood at Sh26.3 billion in 2011, Sh22.5 billion in 2012 and Sh29.1 billion in 2014 before plunging to Sh18 billion in 2015.
Konza is among the Vision 2030 flagship projects and upon completion of Phase 1, the smart city is expected to create more than 20,000 jobs.
The technopolis is expected to host various facilities, including ICT research centres, a university complex, offices, residential houses and parks.
KoTDA chief executive John Tanui told the Business Daily in the past that the authority intends to leverage institutions of higher learning to drive innovation.
This story was first published in theBusiness Daily.