Home Voices What Needs To Be Done to Leverage Professional Engineering Data for Africa’s Future

What Needs To Be Done to Leverage Professional Engineering Data for Africa’s Future

by Eng. Kazawadi Papias Dedeki
3:33 pm

Eng. KAZAWADI Papias Dedeki

Growing up, studying, and working in East Africa, particularly in Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda, I am always fascinated by the potential of technology to transform lives. My passion is always fueled by the stark contrast between the promise of innovation and the daily challenges my region faces due to the lack of sufficient and proper engineering solutions.

My journey began with a simple, yet profound choice to pursue a career in engineering, driven by the dream of bringing meaningful change to my country and the entire continent at large. This decision wasn’t easy; it came with its share of sacrifices and risks, especially being the first in my family and probably the first in my country and the continent to attain an engineering degree in nineteen years instead of four or five!

The journey was fraught with challenges, from financial constraints to family and the skepticism of those who couldn’t yet see the vision I was chasing. Nevertheless, embracing these challenges opened a world of opportunities for me.

Upon completing my diploma in Uganda and later a degree in Rwanda armed with knowledge and a burning desire to make an impact, ever since I returned to my country in 1994. Together with other Rwandans, under the leadership of the current government, we embarked on activities to rebuild, renew, and develop to improve the well-being of Rwandan people by leveraging the available human and material resources available at the time and actually kept improving up-to-date.

Rwanda’s experience underscores the essence of our collective call for action to look beyond the immediate challenges and seize the immense potential for engineering innovations to drive sustainable development across the continent. Let this be a beacon in encouraging others to take that pivotal step towards realizing the future we envision for Africa.

Need for the shift to data-driven engineering profession for Africa’s future

In the pursuit of realizing the ambitious vision encapsulated by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, “The Africa We Want” and the transformative potential of initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), our approach to engineering and technological development needs a foundational shift.

As the President of the Federation of African Engineering Organizations (FAEO), I am compelled to emphasize an often-overlooked cornerstone necessary for the sustainable and equitable progress of our continent. The rigorous establishment, progression, accreditation, and management of professional engineering education and competency frameworks with reliable data.

I believe the essential collaboration between African governments, industry practitioners, and civil society organizations is a critical factor for the effective execution and meaningful impact of policies and projects across the continent. This collaborative approach takes advantage of each sector’s distinct strengths and insights, ensuring initiatives are realistic, tailored to the unique needs of communities, and maintainable over time.

Industry practitioners contribute firsthand experience and practical understanding of market forces, while civil society organizations provide insight into community needs, vulnerabilities, and goals. When governments proactively involve these groups, policies are developed with a richer perspective and implemented more smoothly and powerfully.

This collaboration will encourage innovation, improve resource use, and strengthen community backing, driving transformative changes that affect both local and national levels within the continent.

Engineering gets less attention in STEM education

In the context of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) as a transformative tool for Africa’s right change, there is a noticeable lack of initiatives specifically designed to promote engineering as a source of unique solutions to continental issues.

Engineering is a vital component of STEM that applies scientific and mathematical principles to solve practical problems, making it uniquely positioned to address Africa’s diverse challenges.

However, despite its potential, engineering often receives less attention and fewer resources than its STEM counterparts. Therefore, I believe boosting support for engineering within these cross-sector collaborations can unlock unprecedented opportunities for innovation and practical solutions tailored to the African context.

By integrating engineering more prominently in strategies to advance STEM education and application, African nations can harness creative and efficient solutions for economic development, healthcare, infrastructure, and environmental sustainability among others.

This focused approach not only highlights the indispensable role of engineering within STEM but also ensures a comprehensive strategy for solving some of Africa’s most pressing problems through synergistic partnerships.

Peter Drucker, a towering figure in the field of management, famously stated, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” His words of wisdom ring particularly true in the context of engineering’s role in Africa’s development.

But, without concrete data on the competency and education of our engineering professionals, how can we expect to undertake projects that are crucial for the integration and economic growth of Africa?

Furthermore, echoing the principle attributed to Albert Einstein, “In God we trust, all others bring data,” it becomes clear that faith in progress must be underpinned by tangible evidence and rigorous scrutiny.

For too long, most African countries have operated without proper engineering education and competency accreditation frameworks, a deficiency that directly translates into the absence of the critical data necessary for informed decision-making and policy formulation.

The challenges are substantial but not insurmountable. To address this, with empathy and humility, it is vital to prioritize essential tasks such as the establishment of comprehensive engineering accreditation frameworks, investing in quality engineering education, fostering data-driven policymaking, promoting open access to data, and encouraging private sector involvement.

The journey towards “The Africa We Want” is a communal one, requiring the concerted effort of leaders, policymakers, educators, engineers, and the broader community. By putting professional engineering data at the heart of our development strategy, we equip ourselves with the necessary tools to build resilient, sustainable, and integrated economies across Africa.

Let us measure, manage, and move forward together, with data as our compass and collective prosperity as our destination.

Eng. KAZAWADI Papias Dedeki is the President of the Federation of Africa Engineering Organizations (FAEO), Founder and CEO of Tasks Africa, Past Chair of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) Committee on Anti-Corruption, and Past President and the Chairman of the Governing Council, Institution of Engineers Rwanda (IER).

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