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Introduction

The Institution of Engineers Rwanda (IER) is grateful to host GLOBAL ENGINEERING CONFERENCE (GECO), UNESCO AFRICA ENGINEERING WEEK (AEW) AND 2020 WFEO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEETING that in collaboration with the World Federation of Engineering Organization (WFEO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Federation of Africa Engineering Organizations (FAEO) are organizing the GECO, UNESCO AEW AND 2020 WFEO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEETING. These meetings will be held in Africa for the first time at Kigali Convention Center, from 26th to 29th October 2020.


The 7th UNESCO Africa Engineering Week will be held for the 7th time and it will be done simultaneously with Global Engineering Conference under the theme “Engineering Capacity Building a key for Achieving Africa’s Sustainable Infrastructure Development Agenda 2063”. The conference is a world engineering forum for dissemination and sharing of engineering knowledge, skills, innovations, or solutions, and the promotion of engineering. The UNESCO African Engineering week, which will be held along with the GECO, shall be the 7th Continental Engineering Week since 2014. It will attract about 2,000 participants from all over the world providing an excellent opportunity for exchanging ideas to the engineering fraternity in Rwanda, Africa and beyond. Due to the wide range of issues to be discussed, the conference is of interest to engineers, consultants, educational institutions, industrialists, manufacturers, economists, development specialists, policymakers, Government bodies, Students and society in general.


The Conference will attract Local and international delegates from the Africa, Europe, America, Asia and beyond. It will be organized globally with linkage of the FAEO and the WFEO, where engineers on the Globe will be linked to the conference through the continental Engineering organization (FAEO) and the World Federation of Engineering Organization (WFEO). This is one of the best opportunities for Engineers across the Globe coming together to share knowledge, skills and experience while addressing high pressing engineering capacity building issues in Africa.

The theme of the conference

Engineering Capacity Building a key for Achieving Africa’s Sustainable Infrastructure Development Agenda 2063


All presentations and discussions will thematically focus on the eight SDGs that WFEO identified to be more engineering-related and are taken as subthemes in this event as follows
  1. Clean Water and Sanitation Infrastructures
  2. Affordable and Clean Energy Infrastructures
  3. Creative, Innovative and Conventional Industry e.g Carbon Capture Technologies, etc
  4. Sustainable cities and communities Infrastructures
  5. Climate-resilient Infrastructures
  6. Engineering education and capacity building
  7. Women in Engineering (WE)
  8. Inspiring the next generation

Justification and Relevance

Africa is the second-largest continent on Earth; the second most populous continent after Asia; occupies about 20% of the Earth’s total landmass; has huge reservoirs of biodiversity and minerals (It has approximately 30% of the Earth’s minerals, including 40% of the gold, 60% of the cobalt and 90% of platinum).


Despite this human potential and their rich natural resources, many African countries are still in poverty (about half of the sub-Saharan African population lives in extreme poverty).


While it is a well-known fact that advances in engineering have been central to human progress ever since the invention of the wheel and in particular the past hundred and fifty years, yet improved healthcare, housing, nutrition, transport, communications, and the many other benefits that engineering bring are distributed unevenly throughout the world, and Africa lags behind. Without seriously deliberating on this, Africa is likely to continue with the never-ending wars and conflicts that presently characterize the continent.


Even without drawing African engineering capacity landscape on individual countries, unanimously we all agree that the continent is still lacking critical engineering capabilities. (Some countries have achieved a significant level but all have a potential for growth)


The critical need for engineering in addressing the pressing challenges facing our societies in Africa need not to be overemphasized as they are widely recognized (to solve such large-scale challenges including access to affordable health care; tackling the coupled issues of energy, transportation, and climate change; providing more equitable access to information for our populations; clean drinking water; natural and man-made disaster mitigation, environmental protection and natural resource management, among numerous others).


We believe that Engineering has substantial potential to change this situation and can contribute further to Africa’s overall development.


As such, while acknowledging the issue of mobilizing the engineering community to become more effective in delivering real products and services of benefit to society, is an important international responsibility, it is vitally important that Africa itself takes the full measure and responsibility of engineering’s capacity at all levels of governance from individual states up to the level of AU (African Union) to make a difference in its economic transformation


Learning from the emerging economies, at least three key factors contributed to their rapid economic transformation;

  1. They invested heavily in basic infrastructure, which served as a foundation for other transformation developments
  2. Second, they nurtured the development of small and medium-sized enterprises within the civil society which required the capacity development of its local people in operational, repair and maintenance expertise of those infrastructures
  3. Third, their governments supported, funded and nurtured higher education institutions, academies of engineering and technological sciences, professional engineering and technological associations, and industrial and trade associations.


For Africa, the present infrastructure both in quantity and quality is a bottleneck and among the largest inhibitors of economic growth. The journey to the transformation will require a combination of all the above plus re-engineering of the existing infrastructure together with the provision of the first-time infrastructure at a continental scale.


Resolving these issues will require tremendous innovation and ingenuity by engineers, working alongside other technical and non-technical disciplines. It requires the engineer’s participation to synthesize solutions from the concept level to analyze the problem and not simply their ability to implement the projects. It needs the engineers’ participation and views at a range of scales, from the problems we are facing through to the solution.


Objectives and expected outputs of the conference

The extent to which African economies can undergo infrastructure transformation is constrained by the limited engineers’ participation and engineering capacities inherent in these economies and the conference is intended to devise a new approach on the need to develop public and policy awareness and understanding of the role of engineering at the continental level of:

  1. Affirming the role of engineering/ institutions/ bodies/ associations as the driver of innovation, social and economic development through infrastructure development
  2. Deliberate on the development of information on engineering, highlighting the urgent need for better statistics and indicators on engineering in Africa
  3. Discussions and deliberations on ways to transform engineering education, curricula and teaching methods to emphasizing relevance and a problem-solving approach to engineering;
  4. Discuss and deliberate on the strategies to increase the number of female engineers
  5. Deliberate on more effective and innovative ways to apply engineering and technology to Africa pressing issues and challenges such as poverty reduction and other Sustainable development goals
  6. The Role of Engineering to the issues of Mindset change concerning Climate Change
  7. Review of the synergy of all ongoing regional, continental and international programs and initiatives on the infrastructure development in Africa and the role of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs)
  8. Establishment of an independent coordination unit on all engineering initiatives within AU to address among others the issues of high costs of infrastructures in Africa and recommend appropriate mitigations.
  9. Develop strategies at the AU level for engineering professional bodies to identify and recommend mitigations to identified group incompetency for sustainability while embracing existing individual Excellences as a best practice.
  10. Develop strategies for engineering education and capacity building in Africa and its proper implementation
  11. Develop Climate change actions for sustainability
  12. Develop strategies for implementation of Industrial 4.0 revolution in Africa


These questions cannot be addressed without considering the need for some fundamental change on the continent level by making appropriate policy provisions within AU and individual states
The infrastructure to be addressed should cover a wide range of areas as indicated below

  1. Clean Water and Sanitation Infrastructures
  2. Affordable and Clean Energy Infrastructures
  3. Creative, Innovative and Conventional Industry e.g Carbon Capture Technologies, etc
  4. Sustainable cities and communities Infrastructures
  5. Climate-resilient Infrastructures
  6. Engineering education and capacity building
  7. Women in Engineering (WE)
  8. Inspiring the next generation


The infrastructure is complex and the conference will discuss:

  1. For example, transportation infrastructure includes those for land transport (roads, vehicles and non-motorized), air transport (airports, manned airplanes and unmanned/drones, air traffic control systems, airplanes); and sea transport (waterways, seaports, ships). Education infrastructure includes: schools (primary, secondary, tertiary), structure for management of the schools, equipment and facilities required for the effective running of such schools (libraries, laboratories, and teachers). Health care infrastructure includes hospitals with associated equipment, and trained personnel, drug manufacturing and distribution sector, regulatory agencies, rescue teams, and community health facilities, etc
  2. Engineering Capacity for Infrastructure (ECI) refers to those capabilities and physical plants that are required to enable a prolific machine design and production to take place in an economy. Apart from trained scientists, engineers and technicians, the possession in sufficient quantities and varieties of engineering materials, and the physical plant and machinery, employing which equipment design and fabrication are undertaken for a functional engineering infrastructure and hence a viable industrial base for any economy. The components of ECI includes: the skilled manpower engineering hand tools, mechanical components (bolts, nuts, springs, washers), advanced engineering (robotics, space), pneumatics and hydraulics (pumps, blowers, valves), machine tools (lathe, drills, metal cutters), engineering materials (plastics, iron, steel, nonferrous alloys, glass, ceramics, polymers), spare parts, industrial machines and electronics as illustrated in the figure below:


Source – Ezekwe 1995