Engineering capacity in Africa
In Namibia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania for instance, there is one qualified engineer for a population of 6,000 people – compared to one engineer per 200 people in China. The shortage of engineers is a major concern in Africa and across the world where there has been declining interest and enrolment of young people.
Engineering is vital to addressing basic human needs, improving the quality of life and creating opportunities for sustainable prosperity on a local, regional, national and global level. More young people need to choose engineering as a career and making that choice depends on access to the necessary science, mathematics, technology, and engineering curriculum as well as having access to effective guidance, communications and role models.
An estimated 2.5 million new engineers and technicians are required in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of improved access to clean water and sanitation.
The lack of engineers is hampering social and economic development worldwide. Engineering is critically important for the creation of infrastructure to alleviate poverty, accelerate <g data-gr-id="53">industrial</g> development and enable better healthcare, access to education and the development of an attractive environment for foreign investments. Thus, there is a great benefit for greater investment in African engineering. Sufficient engineering capacity is essential to the economic and social development of any country. It is a basic requirement for the provision of infrastructure that enables better healthcare, access to education and the development of an attractive environment for foreign investment. It is a key driver for innovation and growth. Africa lacks engineers with sufficient skills and experience according to a recent study that looks at the engineering capacity needs in sub-Saharan Africa.
The failure or lack of regulation in relation to foreign engineering firms is damaging to local capacity. Local content laws, where they do exist, are often not appropriately enforced to ensure knowledge transfer from foreign companies to local engineers.
Another cause for Africa’s low number of engineers with sufficient skills is due to poor quality education. Engineering courses in sub-Saharan Africa are often too theoretical, based on outdated curricula and not relevant to local needs.
In addition, engineering faculties generally lack the resources to provide appropriate laboratory experience and academic staffs are often paid low salaries, making it a less attractive position for <g data-gr-id="45">high quality</g> staff. With this situation, it is particularly difficult for universities to compete with the private sector to attract academic staff with industrial experience.
The low engineering capacity is hence an obstacle to the development of national and regional infrastructure, which affects the economic development of countries in the region. The impact of this is most obvious in rural areas where it is more difficult to attract skilled engineers and infrastructure is particularly poor or non-existent. Poor infrastructure is a deterrent to foreign investment.
There is a greater need to understand that the benefits of investing in infrastructure in sub- Saharan Africa go beyond services delivered, and countries that rely on the expertise of foreign investment in their engineering sector must develop strategies to use that investment to build their local capacity and reduce this reliance in the long run.