The curious fate of Uganda’s MSI

Peter Ndemere

Peter Ndemere, UNCST executive secretary, prepared to fight for Ugandan science

The fate of Uganda’s Millennium Science Initiative is hot stuff here. The four year US$33m, low-interest loan will run out next year, and there is an invitation from the World Bank, which backs the initiative, to extend it.

MSI has done a lot for Uganda. Indeed, this meeting would not be taking place were it not for the MSI, which pays for the whole of Uganda Science Week.

Fears about Uganda’s MSI emerged earlier this year after high-ranking Ugandan officials said that the government wanted to ‘take over’ the MSI. Officially, there has been no move from the government to deny another MSI round. But the World Bank needs a request from the government to enter another round. And it hasn’t received it.

In addition, the fourth call for proposals under the MSI should have been announced this week. It hasn’t.

A lot is uncertain. Although the government says it wants to increase its share of the national science funding, it hasn’t really said anything about how it plans to do this. Most scientists support the merit-based, peer-reviewed system used to allocate grants through the MSI.

Speaking to me today, Peter Ndemere, executive secretary of UNCST, hopes that a government-backed MSI would retain the current methods of allocating funding. If it doesn’t he’s happy to resign in protest, he says. But when I wish him good luck in the budget negotiations for 2011, his reply isn’t reassuring: “Thanks, I’ll need it”.

Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net columnist

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