Africa is an emerging global market leveraging technological innovation on the ground. As technology is the principal driver for improvements in quality of life and economic development, the engineering profession is central to expanding access to electricity, modern communications technology, clean water, sanitation, and quality medical care. A well-qualified engineering workforce, supported by the infrastructure and resources necessary to meet the needs of the population, will be at the heart of Africa’s digital transformation. IEEE is committed to being a part of this transformation.
The need for greater engineering capacity is widely recognized across Africa, and IEEE has identified opportunities for collaborative efforts to assist in building this capacity to advance technology and innovation. IEEE is committed to providing educational support and technical development to the engineering profession throughout the continent.
The IEEE ad hoc committee on activities in Africa (AHCAA), which serves as IEEE’s representative on the continent, has developed and begun implementation of its IEEE in Africa strategy, endorsed in November by the IEEE Board of Directors. The strategy focuses on three goals: supporting engineering education and workforce development, building a sustainable community of IEEE members and volunteers, and serving as a resource to governments and other partners in developing standards and public policy. The initial steps are focused on programs in five countries: Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia.
Transform Africa Summit
IEEE had a robust presence at the annual Transform Africa Summit, held from 10 to 12 May in Kigali, Rwanda, and hosted by Paul Kagame, the country’s president. The principal African leadership forum focused on leveraging information and communication technology (ICT) to advance economic development, the event brought together regional and global leaders from government, industry, academia, and international organizations to collaborate on new ways of shaping and sustaining Africa’s ongoing digital revolution. The summit attracted more than 4,000 delegates, including heads of state, first ladies, and ministers and government officials in ICT and related sectors from 80 countries, as well as 300 mayors of African cities.
IEEE President Karen Bartleson represented IEEE at this important meeting and served as a panelist on a big data and Internet of Things session. A strong delegation represented IEEE throughout the summit and provided support at its exhibit booth. It included AHCAA members 2012 IEEE President Gordon Day, Nelson Ijumba, and Dr. Towela Nyirenda-Jere, as well as IEEE staffers Rachel Berrington, director of client services, and Jackie Halliday, program specialist for corporate development.
The Africa Smart Cities Blueprint was unveiled at the summit. Developed under the Smart Africa Alliance by the Rwandan government, the blueprint aims to serve as a catalyst to fast-track ICT-driven initiatives in cities across Africa. It highlights key building blocks including policy and regulation considerations and financing models for the transition to sustainable smart cities.
In addition, Bartleson participated in the Smart Africa Women’s Summit, an inaugural event at Transform Africa that highlighted the crucial role young women and girls play in the continent’s digital transformation. Joined by first ladies from across Africa as well as representatives from several U.N. organizations, Bartleson discussed IEEE’s efforts to build engineering capacity in Africa and the importance of empowering the next generation of female technologists and engineers. You can watch her presentation in this video.
Following the forum, IEEE signed a memorandum of understanding with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Coordinating Agency. Based in South Africa, the NEPAD Agency is the technical body of the African Union, charged with facilitating and coordinating development projects to address poverty and development challenges and place Africa on a sustainable growth path.
Bartleson and Nyirenda-Jere, principal program officer in the NEPAD Regional Integration, Infrastructure, and Trade Program and an AHCAA member, attended the signing ceremony.
Under the multiyear agreement, the first of its type for IEEE within Africa, IEEE will be assisting in the delivery of the African development agenda of the NEPAD Agency for the attainment of the African Union Agenda 2063 and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals Initiative. IEEE will work with the NEPAD Agency on programs focused on workforce development through engineering capacity-building and educational activities; technical, scientific, and engineering policy development; and research and development to increase access to technical information.
“IEEE is very proud to enter into this agreement with such a prestigious organization as NEPAD Agency,” Bartleson said, “and looks forward to collaborating in many ways to provide educational support and technical development for the engineering profession throughout Africa.”
An executive-level delegation led by Bartleson traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, immediately following the summit. The purpose was to engage Kenya’s technology leaders and explore current and emerging issues of mutual interest. Meetings were held with several governmental organizations and companies including KenGen, the country’s leading electric power generation company; the Institution of Engineers of Kenya; and IBM East Africa.
The meetings follow IEEE presidential visits to Africa in 2013 and 2015, which developed the framework for the current IEEE engagement in Africa. Additionally, for the past two years, a board delegation led by the IEEE president has been meeting with industry in various parts of the world, including Asia, Israel, South America, and the United Kingdom to learn how IEEE can better provide value to industry.
EXPANDED WEB PRESENCE
In support of this continuing outreach and commitment, a new IEEE in Africa Web page has been launched. It includes information on the strategic goals and links to upcoming events and opportunities to connect and get involved, including the IEEE in Africa Facebook page.
Senior Member Vincent Kaabunga is chair of the IEEE ad hoc committee on activities in Africa and attended the Transform Africa Summit. Kathleen Weeks is IEEE’s senior corporate development manager.