Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) has a significant lack of engineering capacity that is hindering progress towards achieving development goals, from the provision of basic sanitation to the reduction of rural poverty. This lack of capacity manifests in a shortage of engineers with the skills and experience needed.

This is the key message of a report by the Africa-UK Engineering for Development Partnership (A-UK) of which the Royal Academy of Engineering is a partner. The report was launched on Monday 29 October at an event which included speakers Professor Calestous Juma HonFREng, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard, Dr Sanzan Diarra, CEO of the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers and Jo da Silva OBE FREng, Director of International Development at Arup.

Engineering capacity needs in Sub Saharan Africa is the first international study on this issue and highlights the need for a considerable increase in engineering capacity to promote the economic and social development of the countries, through better healthcare, access to education and an attractive environment for foreign investment.

The report, which is based on a series of surveys and interviews of professional engineers and stakeholders across the Sub Saharan African region, provides recommendations to governments, international agencies, educational and professional institutions and industry on how engineering capacity can be strengthened.

Findings from the study indicate that the low engineering capacity in the region may be due to limited government investment in the development of engineering skills, an absence of knowledge transfer from foreign engineering firms and brain drain of engineering to other sectors and countries.

The report makes recommendations to tackle the capacity problem, including investment in research, mapping capacity needs, improving education, the pursuit of intelligent industrial policies and putting engineering at the heart of public policy-making.

Sir William Wakeham FREng, Senior Vice President and Honorary International Secretary of the Academy, who chaired the launch event, said: “While there is variation between countries, it is evident that, right across Sub Saharan Africa, the engineering sector suffers from a shortage of skilled and experienced engineers. Overcoming the causes of low capacity will be a formidable task but progress can be made in the fields of education, policy making, strengthening of professional bodies and in better engaging the private sector to benefit Africa and the global engineering community.”

Notes for editors

  1. The A-UK brings together the engineering community in Africa and the UK in a consortium comprising the Africa Engineers Forum, The Academy, the Institution of Civil Engineers and Engineers Against Poverty.
  2. The SSA countries examined in the report are: South Africa, Rwanda, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.
  3. The summary report is accompanied by three supporting documents: a literature review; an analysis of an electronic survey of 113 professional engineers and 29 decision-makers from 18 countries; and an analysis of a set of interviews with 15 engineering stakeholders with experience of leading projects in various countries within SSA.
  4. While the study set out to evaluate capacity needs across all engineering disciplines, the majority of interviewees and survey respondents worked in the civil engineering sector, perhaps reflecting a predominance of civil engineering action in SSA.
  5. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Sarah Griffiths at The Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0655