“This is the time to reset and think Botswana, not think my pocket or your pocket … ”
The Engineers Forum 2022 has made a comeback after an involuntary hiatus caused by the Covid 19 pandemic in 2019.The event is the 2nd offering and it has been hailed as bigger and better by those who attended. They went on to applaud the organisers and the presentation of the event as a whole. The Engineering Forum ran from the 1st to 4th March 2022 i under the theme “Creative Engineering Value Chain- Advancing towards Industry 4.0
The Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development who is also a Member of Parliament for Goodhope-Mabule constituency, Honorable Eric Mothibi Molale gave the keynote address. He spoke mostly on corruption and touched base on some vital topics of skills mismatch between the industry and the tertiary or vocational skills training. The minister also took time to expand on substandard work from the engineering sector and that was really draining resources from the country.
He started his opening remarks with obvious salutation to those present and acknowledged the engineers in attendance. Minister Molale was grateful to ERB for hosting such a much needed event as the Host has since acquired recommendations from the first installment of the event.
“The theme for this forum, which is: Creative Engineering Value Chain – Advancing towards Industry 4.0, could not be more appropriate. It resonates well with the Government Reset Agenda as well as the National Vision 2036 aspirations.” he said. He went on to encourage the engineers in Botswana to be creative and innovative as they apply themselves to work in the entire engineering value chain. He noted there were CIPA and international registered engineering patents but he thinks there must be more. The more they come up with solutions the better communities will be.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, engineers are innovators and therefore are expected to take the lead in a multi-stakeholder effort to generate solutions to the challenges. These challenges include high rates of unemployment; huge income gaps; poor service delivery; environmental impact of climate change which stifles food production efforts and drives up the cost of living; corruption; crime; non-communicable diseases and recently the Covid-19 pandemic. The glaring challenge is lack of capital to take these prototypes to production. Government and stakeholders are working to improve the start-up financing ecosystem in the country.”
Requisite infrastructure is already in place to facilitate innovative solutions and these include institutions of higher learning, technical colleges, the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) and the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS).
“ Betsho, this Forum takes place against the backdrop of an industry faced by a plethora of challenges. Among these are: abandoned projects , delivery of substandard engineering work , increase in engineering related litigation , bulging project cost overruns on public works, a disconnect between industry and academia leading to skills mismatch between academic programmes offered by education institutions and actual skills needed by the industry; and engineers who continue to practice without having registered with the Engineers Registration Board.”
The Minister gave viable solutions that may remedy these anomalies. A number of interventions have been or are to be implemented. My Ministry is working to set-up a Construction Industry Authority for better expound regulation of the industry. Following approval to draft a bill to amend the Engineers Registration Act by Cabinet in November 2021, consultations with stakeholders have since been concluded and the ministry is in the process of submitting draft instructions to Attorney Generals Chambers.
Rra Molale cited the 500 staff houses which were demolished as there were rendered unsafe in Gaborone Block 5 some years ago. He thus implored Engineers to always produce good quality products so as to avoid wastage. Honourable Molale further observed that many local companies have closed down due to inefficiencies and competition from foreign companies. He dared the engineers to combat corruption as it starts from the procurement and tender processes.
local contractors and the government did not embrace home grown products such as the Kalahari sand building bricks innovated by BITRI. “These bricks are made from sand which is in abundance in the Kgalagadi region, a product which if utilized will reduce sand mining in rivers and the negative effects that come with it” he said, in an effort to encourage the use of local produce. Minister Molale was also in awe that ‘the country continues to import engineers when training could be done locally, imparting necessary skills to harness the natural resources abundant in Botswana’. He believes at some point there should be skilled graduates from vocational centres. This will reduce employment among the youth and help with the wide skills mismatch gap. To demonstrate his conviction, Honourable Molale said students at the Palapye Technical College could be taught necessary skills for coal mining and afterwards employed at the Morupule Power plant to make use of their acquired engineering skills.
“Dear engineers, I implore you – and all stakeholders – to be at the forefront in the implementation of these recommendations in order to fully embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Achievement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is anchored on multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources. We must generate new knowledge through research, impart this knowledge experientially using new instructional methodologies, and support the practical use of this knowledge through mentorship programs. “