Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
ON 4 March, the world commemorated the World Engineering Day (WED) for Sustainable Development for the first time. The day was put in place to celebrate and recognise the achievements of engineers and engineering works across the world.
The World Federation of Engineering Organisation (WFEO), founded in 1968, sought a way of celebrating important contributions of the profession to sustainable economic development and modern life. The WED 2021, as it was coined, was celebrated under the theme “Engineering for a health planet-Celebrating the Unesco Engineering Report” and focused mainly on the launch of the second Unesco Engineering report entitled, “Engineering on the sustainable development; delivering on the sustainable goals”.
The report is the second after the first issue that was published a decade ago under the theme, “Engineering issues challenges and opportunities for development”. Zimbabwe was well represented in Paris, France by former president of the Federation of African Engineering Organisation (FAEO) and chair of World Federation of Engineering Organisation’s Capacity Building Standing Technical Committee, Engineer Martin Manuhwa who delivered a paper outlining how key the latest issue was in the engineering world. Eng. Manuhwa was co-author of Chapter 5 Section 5 that dealt with regional trends in engineering that focused on Africa. Zimbabwe has been a member of the WFEO since its formation in 1968.
Zimbabwe is hosting the WFEO Capacity Building Committee and has also hosted the WFEO standing committee on anti-corruption. Other Zimbabwean engineers have been active members of international bodies including the chairman of the Engineering Council of Zimbabwe Eng Israel Rwodzi (Large Dams), Eng Quinton Kanhukamwe (Engineering Education), Dr Sanzan Diarra (Anti-corruption), Fari Mavhiya (Women in Engineering), Ben Rafemoyo (Energy) and Mercy Manyuchi (Engineering Environment) while Beverly Nyakutsikwa was co-opted in the WFEO’s young and future leaders committee.
Zimbabwean engineers and scientists have proven beyond doubt elsewhere in the world that they can work on any project in the world. This is proved by Zimbabwean engineers that have worked for NASA, the Gauteng Train Project, Formula One and some on the Pfizer Covid-19 virus development team.
A number of Zimbabwean engineers have also scooped international accolades for their works at WFEO and FAEO.
Despite making it on the world map, Zimbabwean engineers need to do more on the local front as expected of them as the country continues on its quest towards a middle-income economy by 2030.
Infrastructure is key to achieving this dream.
The engineers believe that the revitalization of companies like NRZ, Ziscosteel and many other distressed companies can never be a problem when the country has such high achieving personnel.
“Just give them the right tools, the autonomy and the conducive environment to perform. The Zimbabwean mining landscape requires proper mining methods and proper guidance for it to achieve better results and turn into a US$12 billion sector by 2023,” said Eng Manuhwa.
He noted that financing of infrastructure construction and upkeep was the biggest shortcoming in the country, leaving engineers with no resources for use in most local authorities.
“Infrastructure in the country is not in good shape due to a number of factors, notably funding. The project finance, management and poor general infrastructure maintenance, as well as lack of respect for local content in favour of foreign practitioners who are mostly brought in as part of the project funding arrangements, are some of the major stumbling blocks hindering progress on the local front,” said Eng Manuhwa.
He however, noted that it was encouraging that there was an increased engagement of locals in road construction and other projects, adding that local professionals have done an outstanding job in instilling confidence in the government that they too can be relied upon and counted among the quality in the region.
“Most mega projects do have Zimbabwean engineers especially the construction of the Beitbridge-Harare highway project and on most Zesa power generation and transmission projects we have a local component,” said Eng Manuhwa.
The panacea, according to Eng Manuhwa, is to seek recourse through the Zimbabwe Contractors Council Bill.
“The Zimbabwe Contractors Council Bill will certainly resolve that. But more needs to be done to increase the threshold of local participation in projects. We need to change the mindset about how we perceive foreign goods and foreign professionals. The ‘make it Zimbabwe’ mindset needs policy support to consolidate all the local players to provide services and goods that are made by Zimbabweans and manufactured in Zimbabwe using local material only importing material not available locally,” he said.
The same concept, he says, has been adopted by countries like Ghana, Brazil, China and India, among others and the results are overwhelming.
“We can dust up all those products we were making before and start from there. Our manufacturing base should be agro and mining-based. Government needs to give incentives to produce more through a collaborative effort of education 5.0 from our institutions of higher learning to reinforce the envisaged extreme industry revolution in Zimbabwe,” said Eng Manuhwa who is also the Acting Ziscosteel Board Chair.
The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Amon Murwira, has committed himself to see to it that the country’s education system spurs the country towards achieving Vision 2030, riding upon technological advancements and industrialisation. Prof Murwira’s thrust complements President Mnangagwa, whose Vision 2030 is to transform the country’s economy into an upper-middle income by the year 2030.
“Government has released $700 000 for the setting up of innovation hubs at State universities. The programme has already seen the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), the Midlands State University (MSU), the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), Zimbabwe Defence University and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) benefiting. Completion of the infrastructure for the hubs at the tertiary institutions is at different stages,” said Prof Murwira
HIT has not disappointed as it recently announced that it has started manufacturing electricity transformers which would be sold to the national power utility, Zesa. Engineer Jacob Kudzai Mutisi believes engineers should be romped into influential positions for economic transformation.
“The only way to turn around Zimbabwe’s fortunes is in my opinion, to appoint professional engineers in positions of authority in departments that require engineering expertise. It is no secret that our infrastructure has been falling apart since the 1980s. Zimbabwe’s infrastructure — transport networks, roads, bridges, waste management, water and energy supplies — are all in a dilapidated state. Zimbabweans have to thank professional engineers for their digital infrastructure like communications and navigation networks that are part and parcel of our way of life.
Engineers continue to play a huge role in healthcare, food, manufacturing and research. Professional engineers are the ones who bring innovation to our country and the country should work hard to retain them,” said Eng Mutisi.