Uganda’s development aspirations require that its national Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) plans and programmes make an effective contribution to its social and economic development. Strengthening national innovation performance is required to improve the competitiveness of Ugandan firms and industries competing in the global economy.
The Technology and Innovation Report 2021 urges all developing nations to prepare for a period of deep and rapid technological change that will profoundly affect markets and societies. All countries will need to pursue science, technology and innovation policies appropriate to their development stage and economic, social and environmental conditions. This requires strengthening and aligning Science, Technology and Innovation systems and industrial policies, building digital skills among students and the workforce, and closing digital divides. Governments should also enhance social protection and ease workforce transitions to deal with the potential negative consequences of frontier technologies on the job market.
The Global Innovation Index (GII) indicates that Uganda is not investing significantly in Science, Technology (including ICT), and Innovations. The 2019 GII ranks Uganda at 102 out of the 129 countries ranked by WIPO (Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO, 2019). In comparison with EAC countries, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania were ranked 77, 94 and 97 respectively. The highest ranked country in Africa is South Africa at 63. Uganda’s expenditure on research and development was 0.4 percent of GDP in 2019, business expenditure on R&D is 0.01% and the country logged about 250 patent applications with only 2 registrations.
Uganda’s technology market is on relative growth as compared to other countries in the past. This is evidenced with an increase in technology startups, university programs and an overall presence in businesses. As “innovation is a key component of achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals,” the Ugandan government and several humanitarian organizations have begun to realize the untapped potential of technological innovations in Uganda. The future continues to look bright for technology in Uganda as the government and independent organizations realize the potential of the technology market on a regional and national scale.
Uganda has revitalized efforts to deploy Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) as catalysts of profound economic and social transformations. This is evidenced in the National Development Plan (NDP III 2020/21 -2024/25) under program 14 (Innovation, Technology Development and Transfer). The goal of this program is to increase development, adoption, transfer and commercialization of Technologies & Innovations through the development of a well-coordinated STI eco-system. The key targets to be achieved over the next five years include: (i) increasing the Global Innovation Index from 25.32 to 35; (ii) Increasing Gross Expenditure on R&D as a percentage of GDP (GERD) from 0.4 percent to 1 percent; and (iii) Increasing business enterprise sector spending on R&D (% of GDP) from 0.01 percent to 0.21 percent.
Similarly, Uganda’s Science, Technology and Innovation Sector Development Plan 2019/2020-2024/2025 identifies a number of challenges among which are a weak STI sector coordination and the need to invest in STI infrastructure. The goal of the sector over the period of the Sector Development Plan is: “To strengthen the National Science Technology and Innovation system for Uganda.” It proposes as the main pillars of the innovation system : a) access to business incubation, including access to scientific equipment and qualified technical supervision; b) functional science and technology parks for innovative technological firms; c) skilled human capital; and d) a legal-regulatory environment that fosters innovation.