Huawei, a telecom solutions provider, and integrated communications company Safaricom, today signed a memorandum of Association (MoU) with three local universities under Huawei's 'telecom seed for the future program' to ensure engineering students in Kenya are equipped with modern up to date telecoms skills to meet current industry needs."Africa's education system has been criticized in the past for being too outdated in that there is a gap between what is learned in class and what is in the industry and thus a need to catch up with the rest of the world," said Li Dafeng, President Eastern and Southern Africa Region Huawei. "This MoU seeks to facilitate bridge that knowledge gap". He added.Dafeng predicted that Kenya would become an ICT hub in the next five years following its efforts to allow more of its higher education institutions to engage in such programs through partnership with ICT companies.Under the MoU, students from Moi, JKUAT and Nairobi Universities will benefit from advanced training in latest telecommunication technologies through Huawei's East Africa state-of--the-art training centre situated along Mombasa Road. The MoU will also include Universities curriculum review and competition for Android applications development to enhance localized innovation which is in line with the country's Vision 2030.The training centre is located on 3 floors of one of the business units at Mombasa road's Gateway Business Park. Feng says that 2 of the floors hold equipment while one floor is used for training and can hold a maximum of between 40 -- 80 students at a time. The centre is equipped with 10 trainers. Feng also noted that other resources were also available in South Africa and Huawei's head quarters in China. Huawei also has an additional training centre in Nigeria.By the end of 2010, over 4500 students had received certified training from the Huawei Training center."In doing this, we shall be answering the call to build extra capacity in terms of manpower and training skills in response to the fast growing information technology industry in Kenya, especially on the data front. There is need for skills that will come up with the relevant applications to meet the daily challenges of the common user and improve the well-being of the ordinary Kenyan," Nzioka Waita Safaricom Director, Corporate Affairs.Nzioka added that the ICT sector was best suited to provide the next 500,000 jobs since jobs in the sector were more sustainable, "deepened pockets" and were in the long term compared to other sectors. He also urged the government to rethink its approach to education in an effort to bring our school children at par with those from developed countries.The two companies last month announced the leadership of the Huawei IDEOS in the Kenyan smartphone market with a 45 percent share. The smartphone has been key in promoting localized software applications in Kenya which is one of the aspects the MoU seeks to advance.Speaking during the ceremony Dr. Bitange Ndemo, PS Ministry of Information and Communications said, "The facets of technology keep on changing everyday and for students to remain relevant in the job market or in their own entrepreneurial endeavours -- they require modern training, thanks to Huawei for making this possible", he added "for IT companies to come up and support our students in their career developments it's not only good for them but also for our country as we envision becoming the 'silicon valley of Africa".Commenting on the partnership, Higher Education, Science and Technology Secretary, Professor Harry Kaane said that Kenya needed more engineers. Kaane says that Kenya has 6,000 qualified engineers making the ratio of 150 engineers per million people compared to South Africa's 550 engineers per million people.
Professor Richard Mibei, Vice Chancellor Moi University said that the university has already partnered with Huawei for the last 6 years and had even received equipment for use in training from the firm. Professor Esther Murugi Kahangi, deputy vice chancellor research, production and extension division at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology also commented that the university had had a similar partnership with Huawei where it had been attaching more than 10 students annually at the firm. The academics called for broadening of the partnership to include curriculum review and attachment of professors and lecturers.Huawei and Safaricom did not announce how much they would be investing in the program. Safaricom has also commenced a pilot program that offers a Master of Science degree in Telecommunication and Innovation Development. The pilot at Strathmore University involves about 30 students.