Despite Kenya’s unmatched innovation potential in Africa, it has been held back by numerous snags that ensure it’s prowess does not match global technology centres such as San Jose, Beijing, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Boston.
It is a tough life being an innovator in Kenya as the government’s lack of goodwill, coupled with depressing laws and lengthy procedures, pile on you and you eventually give up.
You will have to jump 21 hurdles on your dream to make counties embrace your innovation. Getting approval from the National Treasury is one of the longest procedures.
Consequently, the country loses much talent to the streets, and innovative projects meant to generate income for the high percentage of unemployed youth remain a dream. Many goods and services never reach the market, businesses created or new government revenue streams actualised.
All this arises from abysmal government policies and unwillingness, reluctance and disinclination from state agencies tasked with creating a conducive environment for innovation to induce technological advancements.
Stringent regulations and red tape dispirit hundreds of innovative brains and turn away external innovators. In the manufacturing sector, for instance, we know that electricity is the key determinant of growth and any innovation that reduces its cost would greatly boost revenues, industrial growth and jobs.
Nowadays, the digital path that a country takes is what defines its brand. Anybody would adore a country that produces quality goods and services but, despite 3D printing coming to Kenya as early as 2013, we have not seen commercial use of the technology in the private sector.
The government must start by removing hurdles that inhibit registration, then those that force projects to remain in their prototype stage forever, make laws that govern innovation flexible and ensure concerned agencies do their work.
The three government institutions in the information and communication technology sector responsible for prodding tech growth that were birthed by the science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Act of 2013 must wake up from slumber.
The Kenya National Innovation Agency (Kenia), Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (Nacosti) and National Research Fund (NRF) under the Ministry of Education must support innovators.
Kenia has been managing the National Innovation System with Nacosti, the regulator, but what quality in research in science, technology and innovation will you oversee when innovators are locked out?
The NRF is responsible for funding innovation, research and Kenia activities but innovators still grapple with lack of finances despite their multi-million-shilling ideas.
Kenia and NRF are stuck in government bureaucracy and now, three years after appointment of their management boards, the agencies are still not functional.
There is no longer doubt that digitisation is disrupting every sector, and every government must learn fast how to contain the disruption.
The agencies must work as they should and the government eliminate red tape and rigid laws.
Mr Ngila is the online editor, 'Taifa Leo'. [email protected] @faustination