The Royal Academy of Engineering (www.RAEng.org.uk), an engineering charity focused on harnessing the power of engineering to build a sustainable society and an inclusive economy, is showcasing its impact on enhancing collaboration, education, and diversity in engineering in sub-Saharan Africa, delivered through its Africa grants programmes ahead of the second UNESCO World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development on 4 March 2021.

The achievements of the Africa grants programmes include:

  • Over 2000 professionals trained by Professional Engineering Institutions across sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Over 530 student industry placements since 2013. Number of students obtaining industry internships increased from 40% to 90% over the course of one project in Zambia
  • Diversity & Inclusion initiatives have driven equal gender participation in programmes. A project from the Institute of Engineers Rwanda helped to increase the number of female internship applicants from 5% in 2018 to 25% in 2019.
  • 50 individual course curricula reviewed and improved as a result of industry-academia partnerships.
  • Almost 50 UK organisations and 400 in-country bodies involved as project partners so far.

In celebration of World Engineering Day, the Academy is also releasing a series of videos (http://bit.ly/3kGb7Nr) highlighting how engineers play a critical role in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Academy is helping to develop innovative solutions to a range of impending and accelerating challenges. Working with local higher education and engineering organisations, it is helping to grow engineering capacity and support sustainable development across 23 countries in sub-Saharan Africa through two key programmes: Higher Education Partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa (HEP SSA) and GCRF Africa Catalyst.

The first, HEP SSA, provides industry secondments for lecturers, equipping them to teach in line with the latest industry standards, while placements help their students to develop practical skills, and give them a better understanding of project cycles and networking opportunities. The programme addresses the gap between theoretical engineering knowledge taught to students across sub-Saharan Africa and the practical application of such theory in industry.

By developing strong alliances between local partners in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK, we can enable learning, collaboration and sharing of best practice

Through strong alliances with partner academic institutions, the Academy is helping to reshape teaching requirements and facilitate more opportunities. At the University of Zambia, this led to updating and aligning course content in line with industry requirements, while increasing the number of students obtaining industry internships from 40% to 90%.

The GCRF Africa Catalyst programme leverages the Academy’s extensive network and expertise to strengthen national engineering organisations. More than £3.5 million has been awarded in 37 projects across 14 countries to help these bodies promote better training, diversity and sustainability.

Launched in 2016, with support from the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the Africa Catalyst initiative allows engineers to focus on issues of specific importance to their relevant jurisdictions, while facilitating good governance practices.

The Academy aims to support the development of a diverse and future fit workforce across the continent. It is estimated that fewer than 10% of engineering posts in Africa are currently occupied by women. GCRF Africa Catalyst has worked with Women in Engineering (WomEng) to promote gender diversity across a wide spectrum of professional experience. WomEng’s work with Eswatini’s Registration Council for Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Allied Professionals has resulted in seven registered female members where they initially had none. A HEP SSA project with the Institute of Engineers Rwanda helped to increase the number of female internship applicants from 5% to 2018 to 25% in 2019.

Commenting on the progress achieved, Yewande Akinola MBE, a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering GCRF Africa Catalyst Committee, said: “While we see immediate improvements in skills and innovation through these programmes, the real win is establishing a framework for lasting change. This will equip communities in Africa to anticipate and plan for the challenges posed by climate change, urbanisation and economic development. The continent is transforming rapidly, and those engineering its future need the skills to think on their feet.

“By developing strong alliances between local partners in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK, we can enable learning, collaboration and sharing of best practice, which in turn will build skills to boost innovation​. But there is much more to be done, which needs the continued support of investors and partners.”

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