The government is concerned over the lack of linkages between learning institutions and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Dr Juma Mukhwana, Principal Secretary for the State Department of Industry in the Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry said there is minimal absorption of new technologies by SMEs.
The PS who was the chief guest during Mount Kenya University's (MKU) 24th graduation ceremony at the Happy Valley campus in Thika, said many of the SMEs lacked appropriate skills critical to their growth, commercialization of innovative technologies; and a low appreciation of science and its contribution to the economy.
Noting that small-scale industries, often the backbone of many economies, play a vital role in generating employment, driving innovation, and contributing significantly to local value addition and employment creation, he said this is where the synergy between higher education and small-scale industries becomes pivotal.
During the graduation held under the theme, 'The Role of Higher Education in Driving Small-Scale Industry for Socio-Economic Equity through Linkages', 5,763 graduands were conferred with degrees, diplomas and certificates. Out of these, 3,429 were men and 2,334 female and among them were 19 PhDs, 531 Masters Holders, and 113 postgraduate diplomas.
The PS said the Small-Scale industries play a critical role Kenya’s economic development by employing 14.1 million persons representing about 93 per cent of the national workforce. ”This sector contributes 24 percent to the GDP,” he said.
Among the youth, SMEs have significantly contributed to innovation and skill development, enabling them to realize their full potential resulting in increased productivity of the young people.
“I appreciate this university for equipping young people with the right skills, knowledge, and activities to play in our market and at the international level,” Dr Mukhwana noted.
He said the government will continue to promote partnerships between SMEs, academia, and the private sector in skill development, promoting development of new technologies, and creating policies that encourage research and innovation in the country.
“This collaboration was manifested during the Covid-19 pandemic period; during which many innovations were developed and deployed into the market,”
"Collaborative efforts, such as research partnerships, technology transfer, mentorship programs, and internships, can facilitate the exchange of knowledge, expertise, and resources. Such linkages empower small-scale industries with the latest advancements in technology, managerial skills, and market insights, thus enhancing their productivity and competitiveness" he noted.
He commended MKU's support to the students and researchers has led to the development of research-oriented projects that have continued to transform lives. This support has led to development of several innovations that have been internationally acknowledged and awarded; and which have been instrumental in establishment of small-scale industrial start-ups,” he said, and congratulated the university management, researchers, and innovators for such sterling achievements.
"While the country is gearing towards a mid-level economy, I want to appreciate Mount Kenya University for taking the bold step in moulding these graduands so that they can fit into our economy. The university is doing this by equipping young people with the right skills, knowledge and activities to play in our market and at the international level," stated the PS.
Stressing that one of the key functions of the State Department for Industry is to create linkages between Government, Academia, and Industry he said these synergies are meant to bring out the best innovations for commercialization.
Dr Mukhwana reiterated the government’s commitment to supporting education, research, innovation, infrastructural growth, and employment creation for socio-economic equality.
The chairman of the university council, Dr Vincent Gaitho, said MKU is committed to ensuring compliance to national and international training standards that are guided by policies and regulations.
He said the university has embraced internationalization of Higher Education and attracted both local and international students to pursue internationally accredited programs. “Our digital footprint is growing globally, with students enrolling from more than 40 nationalities,” he said.
The university council approved the establishment of the Embu Open Distance and Electronic Learning (ODEL) Centre to support the students in the Eastern region of Kenya.
“This is in pursuit of enhancement of service delivery and making MKU’s robust digital learning to be accessible to many aspiring students, and promote equity in higher education,” said Dr Gaitho.
The Vice-Chancellor Prof Deogratius Jaganyi said the intake of students in its campuses continues to grow in leaps and bounds as the institution remains on course to become the largest university in Kenya.
He divulged that during the September-December 2023 period, MKU registered 58,588 students, coming second only to Kenyatta University which enrolled 67,905 students in 2022 amid increasing competition from private and new public universities.
“This is the highest student enrolment that the university has ever had, a clear testimony that MKU has over the years established its niche and maintained quality education,” the VC told the congregation.
Prof Jaganyi said MKU has remained resilient and has continued to strive to enroll students for various academic programs and offer quality education. Pursuant to compliance with the Commission for University Education (CHE) quality standards,
The VC said the Postgraduate Center in Nairobi Campus has been enhanced and the varsity has also introduced three new programs.
Presiding over the graduation ceremony, MKU chancellor Prof John Struthers said a new Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the respective Vice-Chancellors of University of West of Scotland and MKU Vice-Chancellor for renewed partnership that will facilitate joint research and other areas of collaboration.“As the Chancellor of MKU, I will endeavour to assist in that process to the best of my ability,” he said.