Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, says that the engineering profession is a scarce skills domain, and lacks the numbers required to create sustainable economic and social infrastructure.
“There is a clear link between engineering infrastructure and economic growth. Engineers build countries and, like many other countries in the world today, South Africa does not have enough of them,” said Pandor.
“The lack of engineering capacity hampers South African development, resulting in a decline in the labour market, a decrease in the contribution of the agriculture and mining sectors to GDP, and an increase in demand on the engineers with manufacturing and service-related technologies,” she said.
The minister delivered the keynote address at the opening of the UNESCO Africa Engineering Week, at the University of Johannesburg, on Monday, 1 September.
In South Africa, poor infrastructure and services have thwarted the rate of development, but government investment over the next ten years should see the construction of dams, roads and energy infrastructure.
UNESCO supports Pandor’s notion
Speaking about the focus of their work across the continent, UNESCO supported the notion that engineering drives social and economic development, and is a major factor in innovation.
“It is estimated that some 2.5 million new engineers and technicians will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals pertaining to access to clean water and sanitation for Africa,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.
“We want to increase awareness about the importance of engineering in the profession throughout the continent. In Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe there is only one qualified engineer for a population of 6 000, compared to one qualified engineer for every 200 people in China,” she added.
This shortage means that African countries need to invest in engineering education and training to develop human capital for the continent’s infrastructure and social transformation.