A shortage of skilled and experienced engineers in Sub Saharan Africa is preventing the region from achieving development goals.
Believed to be the first international study on this issue, the Engineers for Africa report examined the situation in South Africa, Rwanda, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania through a series of surveys and interviews.
Its authors say a considerable increase in engineering capacity is needed to provide better transport, power and communications infrastructure.
That would promote economic and social development by improving access to healthcare and education, creating new market and employment opportunities and making an attractive environment for foreign investment.
The lack of capacity cannot just be attributed to too few engineers graduating, as there is also a notable level of unemployment among engineering graduates.
The authors suggest this may be partly due to a reluctance to take poorly paid government posts in rural areas, or to the dominance of foreign engineering firms that import outside staff, but the predominant reason they identified was that universities are not providing students with the skills they need for employment.
Tertiary engineering education in many countries in SSA has not received enough investment, often resulting in courses that are too theoretical, based on outdated curricula and without facilities for appropriate laboratory experience.
Within the workplace, too, education is an issue. The study identified significant training gaps relating to both technical knowledge and managerial skills.
Engineering institutions are often poorly resourced, which restricts their ability to support improvements to university courses and the professional development of their members.
They have limited capacity to provide expert advice to policy-makers.
The report makes recommendations to tackle the capacity problem, including investment in research, mapping capacity needs, improving education, developing intelligent industrial policies and putting engineering at the heart of public policy-making.
It urges industry to build stronger links with higher education institutions and to provide more frequent CPD opportunities for engineering staff.
Foreign companies operating in SSA should do more to ensure knowledge transfer to local engineers.
The study was conducted by the Africa-UK Engineering for Development Partnership, comprising the Africa Engineers Forum, The Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Civil Engineers and Engineers Against Poverty.
See the full report