On 12 August 2021, the big day had arrived for the Centre of Excellence for ICT in East Africa (CENIT@EA) as the regional innovation hub celebrated the achievements of its first set of students during the graduation ceremony hosted at the Nelson Mandela African Institution for Science and Technology (NM-AIST). After a two-years study programme involving research and practice on embedded and mobile systems, six students of the first CENIT@EA cohort graduated with a Master of Science degree. Their fellow students of the first cohort are set to graduate later this year after the completion of their on-going Master Thesis defence.

Talking to the students just before the graduation ceremony, one could feel their excitement about making the next step in their ICT journey in business and academia. The CENIT@EA students expressed their gratitude towards the East African Community (EAC) and the German Government for the impactful project and scholarships they received, giving them access in the Master’s programme and its benefits via the project “Digital Skills for an Innovative East African Industry” (dSkills@EA). With the support of the project implementation partners, that is the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), the Centre of Excellence has offered full scholarships to all its students and exposed young EAC graduates to a state-of-the-art curriculum developed by the East African-German academic consortium. The regional innovation hub has exposed CENIT@EA students to opportunities for guest lectures from mobile and embedded systems experts in the private sector as well as created an incubation space for ideation of innovative digital solutions for prototyping and implementation.

Tanzanian graduate Martine Liymo noted that the programme had covered all major ICT technologies. “These technologies can be used to solve various societal problems in the region. Digital skills have become even more important as we can see with the current pandemic since many people rely on technology to work from home.” Martine himself wants to use his knowledge to focus on healthcare distribution in the region as he has already developed a mobile-based platform for wholesale and retail pharmacies.

When being asked about whether she would recommend fellow EAC youth to apply for the Master’s programme (applications are currently running under www.cenit-ea.org), the answer of Rwandese graduate Ange Uwayisenga was clear-cut. “I would really encourage them to apply. Especially women since we are still too few in digital programmes. As women we can do it, we can change peoples’ lives via technology.” All students emphasised that they especially welcomed the practice-oriented structure of the programme. Kenyan graduate Philemon Rotich highlighted, “By not learning only in class but talking to experts in the field, you get hands-on experience. Going forward, I want to focus on Smart Cities and finding solutions for challenges such as transportation or parking.”

Meanwhile Ngollo Daudi, a graduate from Tanzania, will focus on agriculture. “I want to apply my knowledge on the Internet of Things to improve the crop growth in the region.” His fellow graduate Happyness Alexander added that the programme provided digital skills that enable the graduates to work in all sectors. Personally, Happyness wants to focus on e-health. While she has already developed an app mapping health services, she wants to add new features such as finding specialized doctors and making appointments online (read more on Happyness' app here). She is also working on a tool to predict what might cause certain symptoms before people consult a doctor.

Something that has been pointed out by all students was the benefit of connecting and researching with youth from all six EAC Partner States. Now, the graduates want to share their knowledge with others going forward. This way, CENIT@EA has become a starting point for digital knowledge sharing in the whole EAC region. Coincidentally, 12 August was also World Youth Day, which aims at putting a spotlight on educating youth to becoming leaders of tomorrow. Very fitting after all!

On the project:

dSkills@EA is proud to have made a remarkable impact in the upskilling and training of young professionals in digital skills relevant to the industry’s needs, across the six EAC Partner States via its support to CENIT@EA. The fully-funded Master’s programme in embedded and mobile systems is a distinct example of skills development for the digital transformation of the industry in East Africa. The collaboration between academia and industry has been one of the unique components of the programme, ensuring the quality of a practice-oriented teaching and industry-proven curriculum that enabled CENIT@EA students to transfer knowledge to the industry through internships. Throughout the study programme, CENIT@EA has provided a platform for students to continually develop and showcase their digital innovations in international conferences such as GMIS, YouLead Summit, APPPF, East African Business Summit. To date, 88 scholarships have been offered to EAC citizens and CENIT@EA continues to train more youth on digital skills as currently there is a call for applications for the 4th cohort of the Master’s programme for the year 2022.

dSkills@EA will continue to ensure that the employment and innovation-related digital skills of young EAC citizens are strengthened, in continuous efforts to increase support to youth development in the region.

Find more information on the Master's programme and the possibility to apply under https://www.cenit-ea.org/.