The challenge is how to sustain this impressive growth and spread its benefits. The answer to this question lies largely in
However, the focus on financing tends to overshadow the fact the capacity to mobilise and utilise such resources will be limited by the continent's low level of engineering capacity. Building such capacity rapidly is important for three key reasons.
Second, infrastructure investments alone cannot guarantee sustained economic growth and spread of prosperity. This requires entrepreneurs who can identify business opportunities associated with new infrastructure projects.
LOSSES THROUGH MIGRATION
Third, much of the technological knowledge needed to sustain
It is for these reasons that the
At face value,
There are a few strategic measures that the countries can use to ramp up their capacity. First, African countries need to demonstrate the critical role that infrastructure plays in entrepreneurship and development. The most inspirational opportunity today is making broadband more accessible and affordable to young entrepreneurs.
Access to broadband should be viewed in the same category as transportation networks. Indeed, African cities have begun providing free Wi-Fi to stimulate entrepreneurial activities. Such experiments are underway in
Second, specific measures need to be adopted to expand engineering training. African countries will need to supplement traditional university departments with novel approaches that include upgrading training institutes to offer certified engineering training, strengthening engineering training within private and public enterprises, and forging stronger international education partnerships.
Third, all major infrastructure projects should include specific engineering education objectives as part of performance. Expansion of telecoms infrastructure should include support for new electronics engineering schools. Examples of such efforts include the role of telecoms ministries in creation of new technology universities in
Similarly, ongoing infrastructure corridors such as the one connecting
REVISE PROJECT TENDERING
Fourth, African governments need to revise their procurement project tendering systems so that they specifically provide for engineering training and the involvement of local engineering firms.
Fifth, armed forces are one of the most important sources of engineering capacity. Carefully-designed programmes could help to repurpose sections of the military to support infrastructure construction. To do this, the military will need to strengthen its own internal engineering capacity. Engaging the forces in civilian projects is not new. What is important is to clarify the lines of accountability and design strategies that foster better cooperation with civilian agencies.
Finally, these measures will require presidential champions. There is growing consensus among African countries on the importance of infrastructure in development. This is reflected in the draft Agenda 2063 of the
Equally important is the rise of technocratic leaders across
Above all, engineering will continue to languish until African countries start to recognise engineers who are dedicated to turning ideas into products and services. The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has a bigger role than just rewarding a few selected teams. It serves as a role model on how
Prof Calestous Juma teachers at
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