Engineering Competencies Crucial to Overcoming Socio-Economic Development Challenges – Ex-President Obasanjo
Nigeria’s former President, Engr. (Chief) Olusegun Obasanjo, has identified engineering competencies in design and analytical thinking as a panacea to Africa’s socio-economic development challenges.
He made this assertion at the 3rd African Engineering Deans Council (AEDC) Summit, which held from July 24 - 26, 2017, at Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State.
Delivering the Keynote Address at the summit with the theme, ‘Engineering for Socio-Economic Development of Africa’, Engr. Obasanjo pointed out that in many parts of Africa, young engineers have not been trained for specific roles in the industry, adding that they have to be thought how to convert the technical knowledge acquired into useful artifacts needed in the industry.
He said that young engineers should also learn how to transform manufactured products into viable business ventures, as there is need for Africa to have more engineer entrepreneurs rather than engineer job seekers.
According to him, the engineering curriculum of the 20th century was no longer sufficient to address the engineering challenges of the 21st century. He lamented that the society was experiencing serious deficits due to lack of the will to come together and seek ways of working out solutions to the problems without any political undertones.
The former Chairman of the African Union (AU) argued that the interest of the African continent should be put at heart to take the continent from backwardness, stressing that engineering development is good for Africa because it would save the continent from suffering the drawback of political issues.
He stated: “If Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology are instruments of development and progress for others, and ours cannot be different, our cooperation and collaboration should have come earlier no matter what we are doing at national levels. If Africa is the cradle of humanity and engineering from the Stone Age has provided the ingredients of progress and development in human civilization, why then did Africa slide back? Whatever may be our answers to this pertinent question, we should only note them to guide our present and our future and not hold us back or hold us down.”
The former president, who called for more interaction between industries and universities to promote innovation and facilitate absorption of graduates by industries, said that such a relationship had become a subject of great interest to even policy makers. “It will engender improvement and innovation in the industry and help to ensure relevance in academic training and research,’’ he said.
He, however, hailed African countries for embracing technology as a driver of development, noting that telecommunications in particular had improved quality of life across sub-Saharan Africa. He charged the AEDC to see how technology could be further harnessed to improve the standard of living in Africa.
“According to Wikipedia, about 40 per cent of Africa-born scientists and engineers live and work in European countries. Some call it brain-drain and often dwell solely on the negative implications, but have we seriously thought of how this can be of benefit to the continent?’’ he queried.
The former President lauded the Chancellor of Covenant University, Dr David O. Oyedepo, for his vision and support for the development of humanity, adding that Dr. Oyedepo remains a true believer in the Africa project.
According to Engr. Obasanjo, “Dr. Oyedepo has been at the forefront of the battle for the proper and adequate recognition of the African and his placement on the right pedestal in the scheme of things. I appreciate your belief in the Africa Project and the establishment of this veritable platform, where we stand today to propagate the good news that, as African Engineers, we can proffer solutions to whatever problems Africa may face, especially in the socio-economic development plane”.
While making his remarks, the Chancellor, Covenant University, Dr. David O. Oyedepo, praised the AEDC for organising the summit and for its efforts so far in seeking solutions to challenges facing the socio-economic growth of Africa. He said that he looked forward to seeing innovations by the council that would tackle a greater part of challenges facing humanity.
The President of the Republic of Guinea, who is also the Chairman of the African Union (AU), Engr. (Professor) Alpha Conde, called for a paradigm shift from the 20th century engineering to the 21st century engineering to facilitate Africa’s development.
Conde, who was represented by a Cabinet Minister in Guinea, Mr Alpha Momodou Bomo Barry, said that the continent would only move forward through science and technology. “Do not ask what Africa can do for you; rather, think of what you can do for Africa,” Conde added.
Earlier in his opening speech, the President, African Engineering Deans Council, Engr. (Professor) Moses Obiazi, said that Africas’ access to shelter, water, sanitation and energy was vital for increased productivity. To realise this, he said, African engineers must be fully involved, as it is only Africa that will solve Africa’s problems.
“Currently, we do not have specific policy framework to encourage and mobilise African engineers to collaborate in tackling Africa’s infrastructure and developmental challenges. AEDC is, therefore, poised to work through the AU to help to foster collaboration in developing technologies, manpower, skill and competences required to tackle Africa’s multiple challenges. This will raise the bar of advancement for the continent,” Engr. Obiazi stated.