Len Kalane, PiE Digital

The Africa Engineering week, held under the a auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) got off to a rousing start this week in Pretoria on September 25, a day after South Africa’s official celebration of Heritage Day.

South Africa’s deputy president, Paul Mashatile opened the week-long event hosted by the Engineering Council of South Africa at the grounds of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) international conference centre. 

The event, billed for September 25 to September 28, is the ninth UNESCO Africa Engineering Week as well as the seventh Africa Engineering Conference.  Engineering big guns, diplomats, politicians and businesses were in attendance – the list mentioned luminaries such as the Deputy of OgunState in Nigeria, Engineer Niomot Salako, African Union representative Sophia Ashipala, Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President of Zimbabwe, Engineer Amos Marawa, UNESCO Regional Director Professor Martiale Zebaze-Kana, Conference Chair and FAEO Past President Engineer Martin Manuhwa, ECSA President Refilwe Buthelezi, President of the Federation of African Engineering Organisation (FAEO) Engineer PAPIAS Kazawadi Dedeki, President-Elect of the World Federation of Engineering Organisation (WFEO) Engineer Mustafa Shehu among other distinguished attendees. 

The organisers saw this not only as a conference but also as ground-breaking event, seeking to inspire and educate the youth and the public about the awe-inspiring world of engineering as well as to showcase how engineers are the ultimate problem solvers and crucial players in addressing the continent’s most pressing challenges. The 2023 annual event was themed “Celebrating Engineering Excellence in the African Region”. 

Mashatile’s keynote address touched sharply on the role of women in engineering: “The under representation of women and other marginalised groups within the sector is a global phenomenon that is primarily structural and calls for strategic interventions that respond to challenges that marginalised groups face, such as unconscious bias, lack of workplace flexibility, unclear promotion paths and limited roles.”  

The event, in partnership with the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) and the Federation of African Engineering Organisations (FAEO), is led by UNESCO and WFEO, through its Standing Committees based in Africa and FAEO. 

WFEO has an understanding with UNESCO that establishes the Africa Engineering Week and in turn WFEO has an Agreement with FAEO to operationalise and run the event through a Steering Committee Chaired by the WFEO CECB and comprising of all WFEO STC Chairs based in Africa, the FAEO President, UNESCO and other relevant stakeholders. 

The aim of the AEW is to create a strong engineering community in Africa with robust links between Government, Industry and Academia. Engineering is pivotal to economic development and social wellbeing of all nations. UNESCO, FAEO and WFEO introduced the AEW to help contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

*** Eng Martin Manuhwa, Conference chair ***

Conference chair, Eng Manuhwa, told PiE Digital journalists that the purpose of the Africa Engineering Week (AEW) is to foster a strong engineering community in Africa and facilitate collaboration between government, industry and academia.

He said the event aimed at contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by promoting engineering excellence and sustainable development across the continent.

Manuhwa, as the conference chair, told PiE Digital on the side lines that he is also involved in other activities and various platforms geared towards continental development, notably as the Managing Director of MUNJANI AFRIKA INVESTMENT CORPORATION, a business alliance initiative positioned to embark on a grand Pan-African social and economic alchemy, promoting and facilitating intra-Africa trade, develop, industrialise and modernise the African continent through a business, public sector and social partners pact (See www.munjani.africa).

The AEW event was expected to attract about 1 000 participants from within Africa and beyond, providing an ideal opportunity for exchanging ideas and promote engineering in Africa. 

Manuhwa, in his address, expressed gratitude to the organising committee, sponsors, partners and participants for their support.

Previous AEW events have taken place in various African countries, including South Africa (now hosting for the second time), Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia and Ethiopia  – PiE Digital.