The recently ended 2022 Africa Asia Pacific Accord WFEO-CECB Capacity Building International Forum and Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers Biennial Conference in Victoria Falls from 15 to 19 August focused on strengthening capacity building and delivering innovative infrastructure. Global challenges call for a paradigm shift in the way we plan, develop and implement infrastructure. It can only make sense that innovation, engineering and industrialization are key to economic growth and the enablers for these pillars are engineers. Hence why it is critical our economy continues to build and maintain capacity in the field of science, technology and engineering. The published SADC report on engineering needs and numbers in the SADC region (2018) quotes that “without good infrastructure and transport, economies cannot develop”. John F. Kennedy is also widely quoted as saying “it is not our wealth that built roads, but rather, it is our roads that built our wealth”. Without engineers, infrastructure cannot be developed and our economy will remain stagnant. We need innovation, engineering and industrialization to build our infrastructure, hence build our economy and this will only help assist towards our goal of achieving an upper middle income society by 2030. 

In his opening address during this international conference, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, H.E. Professor Amon Murwira, called upon educators to transition from Education 3.0 to heritage based Education 5.0.  Traditionally, Education 3.0 would encompass teaching, research and community service, but now the focus and thinking is towards Education 5.0 that encompasses innovation and industrialisation. As global innovation and technology advancement gathers increasing pace, it is upon us as Zimbabweans to embrace technological change and by so doing, capacitate our institutions and professionals.  The National Critical Skills Audit of 2018 shows a huge deficit of 93.5% in the engineering and technology sector. In order for the country to advance to a stable economic growth trajectory, it is important and crucial that we address the critical skills deficit especially within engineering and technology.

This calls for a consented effort from all key stakeholders including industry, engineering institutions and academia to review the current status quo and implement measures and structures that speak to students at higher and tertiary level through to industry and mentorship. One such measure, among others, is the promotion and operation of innovation hubs throughout the country through the various tertiary institutions. These innovation hubs are to be fully supported by funding institutions and engineering and science professionals so that capacity is built and maintained for years to come. The three critical inputs required for the successful operation of innovation hubs are (1) faculty research, (2) industry and (3) public enterprise.  Industry will play a big role and this is where engineers are called upon to take the lead and propel innovation and industrialization to greater heights and advancement so that economic growth is realised within the targets that the country has set itself. 

Education 5.0 is structured upon 5 central pillars which are; (i) programmes, (ii) human capital, (iii) digital and physical infrastructure, (iv) legal infrastructure and (v) financial infrastructure. Engineering for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) sees a world where engineers contribute to ensuring that all people have access to the services and resources necessary to live healthy, fulfilling lives in dignity and at peace, while working to preserve the global environment. This means that meeting the SDGs by 2030 and any development goals beyond that date is impossible without the mobilization and full input of the engineering profession at all levels.

Zimbabwe requires a diversity of disciplines and levels of engineering skills from the engineering scientist to the practising, professional and consulting engineer, engineering technologist, technician and artisan. There is a direct positive correlation between the gross domestic product (GDP) and the number of engineers required. Countries with more engineers according to the national critical skills audit report have much larger GDPs and for Zimbabwe to accelerate economic growth, it has to be benchmarked against advanced economies such as Germany with an estimated 23,525 engineers per million and a 3.4 trillion annual GDP.

Zimbabwe’s current register of engineers falls short of the organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD) level, but the good news is that, there is still time to address this if we as a country organize ourselves and prioritize capacity building. 

Finally, the international engineering conference held in Victoria Falls concluded on key resolutions, and amongst them was the resolution on capacity building. While the world has become a global village, there is need to impart skills transfer by industries to local engineers, innovators, scientists and technologists. Industries from outside the country should identify understudy personnel and be involved in skills transfer during execution of their critical infrastructure projects. There should be a deliberate effort to capacitate the industry by provision of resources and supported by legislature and policies.

There is a need to lobby for inclusivity of local engineers in procurement services for all infrastructure projects. The key to economic growth is innovation, engineering and industrialization. This can be achieved and our targets to have an upper middle income society by 2030 can be realized.

Eng. Thami Mpala is the President of the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers. He’s on