Aligning the engineering curriculum with industry needs in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa faces great engineering challenges but in the poorest African countries, there is just one scientist or engineer per 10,000 population. This skills shortage and gap is severely detrimental to the region’s infrastructure development. As Professor Nyichomba of the University of Dar es Salaam says, there is a “mismatch between what industry wants, and what we’re delivering”. EAP has therefore supported the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) and Anglo American Group Foundation to enrich engineering education in Sub-Saharan Africa by bringing universities’ curricula in line with current industrial practices.

Following on from our research collaboration with the RAE in 2012 to identify the engineering capacity needs in Sub-Saharan Africa, EAP has provided strategic support to the Enriching Engineering Education (EEE) programme. Running from 2013 to 2015 across seven countries in the region, the EEE programme facilitated secondments and collaborative workshops for university staff to learn directly from industry partners. EAP supported the selection of universities and partnership development between industry and academia in the region.

Elected ‘hub’ universities undertook secondments with industry partners, whereby members of university staff spent up to two months working within their chosen industry organisation. The secondments provided staff with an opportunity to acquire hands-on engineering experience, enabling them to better understand the needs of the industry. To facilitate peer-to-peer learning, workshops were held in seven regional countries to discuss the lessons learned from the secondments.

By refocusing engineering education on its practical application, the EEE programme greatly benefits the development of Sub-Saharan Africa’s infrastructure both now and in the future. For example, the University of Zimbabwe’s engineering department has been able to overcome its water shortage engineering challenge through the valuable expertise it gained from the industry secondment.

Engineering capacity and education is a core priority for EAP and we will continue to advocate for teaching that keeps pace with challenging global issues such as poverty, climate change and sustainability.