“It looks obvious,” says 2017 IDRC Research Award Recipient Victor Oteku, “but the importance of personal connections is very strong in establishing partnerships for technological innovation in Kenya.” Working in IDRC’s Regional Office for Sub-Saharan Africa, Oteku’s research sought to uncover socio-political and economic factors that shape partnerships for technological innovation in Kenya.
Oteku chose the information and communication technology sector for his study because of its high value to innovation and its contributions to growth in other sectors. The Kenyan government is also focusing on scientific and technological innovation in its long-term development plan, he says.
“Partnerships are mutual and synergetic collaborations geared toward a common goal,” says Oteku. The online survey he conducted showed that economic factors had the biggest influence on partnerships. Interviews and focus group discussions, however, “suggested that socio-cultural factors had a stronger influence.” Personal relationships, in particular, can determine success or failure. He concluded that all those involved need to work toward formal but open and flexible partnerships.
While a research awardee, Oteku also helped develop a proposal in support of the multi-funder Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa. These councils are central to funding and catalyzing research and innovation.
Personally, “I nurtured the values of tolerance, cooperation, and hard work just by observing my colleagues do their jobs,” says Oteku. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been here.”