The University of Nairobi (UoN) hosted the opening ceremony of 7th Global Research Network – Belt and Roads Initiative (BRI) hybrid Conference 2023, at the UoN Towers Main Campus.
On February 7, 2023,
The University of Nairobi (UoN) hosted the opening ceremony of 7th Global Research Network – Belt and Roads Initiative (BRI) hybrid Conference 2023, at the UoN Towers Main Campus. The University of Nairobi is the 1st institution in the African continent to host the BRI Conference. The 2 day conference was jointly organized by the Department of Management Science and Project Planning, University of Nairobi (UoN), the Department of Transport and Supply Chain Management, University of Johannesburg, Zhejiang University, Ocean College and the Global Transport and Logistics Research Group, RMIT University. Under the theme ‘Connecting the African Continent through BRI: Status Quo, Opportunities and Way Forward’ the conference attracted about 100 participants from Kenya, Australia, China, South Africa, Belgium, Tanzania, Uganda among others.
The Vice Chancellor; Prof. Stephen Kiama, The Dean, Faculty of Business and Management Sciences; Prof. James Njihia, The Chairman of the host Department, Dr. Thomas Ombati and the Chairperson of the steering committee; Prof. Gituro Wainaina welcome the chief guests and delegates to the University of Nairobi.
The conference was officially opened by the Cabinet Secretary for Roads and Transport– Hon. Kipchumba Murkomen. He spoke at length about the benefits the country has experienced since signing the BRI agreement in 2017, noting that it has improved the economy and increased employment while also spurring the development of infrastructure that has improved regional and continental connectivity.
"Through the BRI, contemporary infrastructure projects such as railways, road development, port construction, dam construction, industries, digital connection, and airports have been completed in Kenya." The Hon. Murkomen said. The Cabinet Secretary also encouraged state agencies to collaborate with national and international universities to advance the BRI agenda in order to tap into the existing knowledge base and improve financial sustainability.
Hon. Murkomen also urged academics to disseminate research findings that can influence policy and spur innovations in the Road sector. “In future, the Government should make serious policy pronouncements at the universities because here, researchers and academia can guide the process' to underpin the critical role Universities play in generating knowledge and policy backed by scientific data.
Hon. Eliud Owalo, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy, presented a keynote speech which heavily focuses on ICT skills, competencies, and technologies needed for the global economic transformation as envisioned by BRI. In his remarks, he said: "Technological knowledge is essential for progress, and we should keep in mind that we are not only thinking about today but also to our future generation." He urged Kenyan youth to acquire 21st century skills so they could compete on a global scale.
The Belt and Road Initiative, according to Prof. Vincent Machuki, "offers the African continent immense prospects. BRI is a significant boost for the development of infrastructure, and it was requested that delegates consider the research results offered by various academics and make standardized recommendations that would assist the nation in maximizing the benefits of BRI.
“The conference's theme has come at a very vital time as Africa is recovering from the horrific consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic”, said Vice Chancellor Prof. Kiama, who also expressed his joy at having the honor to be the first institution in Africa to host the international BRI conference. The key proponents of BRI envisioned a continent with excellent road infrastructure that would connect the entire continent and make it possible for trade to thrive among African Countries
The Dean, Prof. Njihia; assured the delegates of the Faculty’s commitment to build value and be part of change process. Stating that theme and sub themes of BRI conference feed on the debate of the real value of the BRI projects to the Kenyan people. The Dean also shared the Faculty’s ambition to establish a centre of support in Transport and Logistics
Prof. Gituro Wainaina also spoke about the advantages of the BRI to the African continent and highlighted how the Asian continent has benefited from the various initiatives. Dr. Ombati expounded on the main aim of the conference stating “The conference aims at discussing ways of connecting all 54 African countries to promote partnerships and promote sustainable development”
During the official opening ceremony presentations were made by Prof. Prem Chhetri-RMIT University, Prof. Firdaus Abdullah- Dean, Faculty of Business and Management Universiti Teknologi Mara, Malaysia, Prof. Paul Lee – Director, Institute of Maritime Logistics, Ocean College, Zhejiang University Zhoushan – China and Prof. Victor Gekara, RMIT University
The 2 day conference lined up a series of paper presentations and keynote address by various speakers across the globe.