Engineers should have a seat at the policymaking table | Infrastructure news

It is essential for engineers to be involved in advocacy and play an integral role in advising government and policy makers on critical issues, including infrastructure development, said US-based Matt Reiffer, Director of Transportation Programs at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), as part of his keynote address at the second day of the FIDIC Africa Infrastructure Conference.

The two-day online conference, themed “The role of a consulting engineer in a changing world – an African perspective’, brings together consulting engineers, financial institutions, and investment bodies, thought leaders, and government ministries from around Africa, to consider the changing landscape of infrastructure development and engage in problem-solving discussions. Delegates from multi-national consulting engineering firms and role-players who are active in Africa were also in attendance.

The conference was facilitated by Eng. Jeshika Ramchund, Lead Engineer at Bosch Projects and a FIDIC Africa Exco member, and Eng. Adedoyin Obikanye of CPMS Ltd in Nigeria.

Reiffer’s presentation entitled, ‘The Art of Advocacy’, emphasized the importance of advocacy and role of the engineer in facilitating it. He indicated that engineers are solution providers who are data driven, respected by the public, and trusted by their clients, which makes their perspective to important decision makers critical and valuable.

“So many of the national and global challenges we face can be solved by engineers. Who better to advise government and policymakers than engineers who are solving problems every day for their clients? Engineers are data driven and science-based, which is exactly what governments need – they need data and information that is objective from reliable, credible and trusted individuals.”

Reiffer also discussed the importance of forming coalitions with all relevant stakeholders and for those within the construction industry who benefit from projects, such as partners to suppliers and contractors.

“Because engineers are advocating for infrastructure development, when we form coalitions with economic groups, associations, chambers of commerce, or communities – when we work collectively together – this resonates more powerfully with policymakers.”

In fact, one of the conference resolutions, presented by Eng. Abe Thela, Director of Nyeleti Consulting, and the VP for FIDIC Africa, emphasized the importance of advocacy.

“The FIDIC Africa Advocacy strategy will improve the alignment and awareness of member firms in the public-private partnership landscape – providing training and exposure to the frameworks that can assist in mitigating challenges of infrastructure projects by better allocation of fiscal resources and by improving public sector and governance through a partnership with the private sector.”

Meanwhile, other key discussions during the day included a panel discussion on ‘Infrastructure and Social Development – The Role of the Engineer,’ facilitated by 

Eng. Alex Turihohabwe from TB3 Global Ltd and a FIDIC Africa EXCO member. Panelists included Eng. Mustafa B. Shehu, the executive VP at WFEO; and Eng. Kim Timm, Executive Structural Engineer at AECOM SA.

The session wrap-up was undertaken by Eng. Harold Chibwe, from Kiran & Musonda Associates and FIDIC Africa Future Leaders Chairperson.

Today’s conference also included an interactive session entitled ‘Applying engineering and problem identification/solving abilities,’ in which a report back was provided from the FIDIC Africa FL Symposium by Eng. Keith Katyora from Design Thinking Engineer; with comments from Eng. Ibikunle Ogunbayo.

Another insightful panel discussion on ‘Infrastructure & Social Development – The Role of the Engineer,’ was facilitated by Eng. Patrick Kampengele, from Knight Piésold, also a FIDIC Africa EXCO member. Panelists included Jocelyn Landry Tsonang, Executive Team Member (African Circular Economy Network), Founder and Sustainability Manager (D&D Smart Construction); Joshua Mulandi Maviti, Urban Development Specialist at the UN Habitat; and Dr Ron Watermeyer, Founder of Infrastructure Options.

Eng. Kabelo Motswagole, MD of Herbco Technical Services and the president of FIDIC Africa, concluded by indicating that COVID-19 has seen the engineering fraternity shift gears, despite which, engineers remained resilient in times of change.

“As engineers we must realise that our solutions should not only provide the best infrastructure, but sustainable infrastructure that should bring value to our communities and mitigate against further negative impacts on the environment.”

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