How is it that Europe, among many other nations like China and Egypt, to name but a few, have buildings, roads, and bridges that are more than 200 years old, while Tanzania struggles to build coherent, architecturally beautiful and simple buildings, roads, or bridges that can outlast one generation?
For Tanzanian engineers, planners and architects, this is a challenge that we don’t have impressive landmarks that are a product of Tanzanians. There are few architectural and engineered projects to marvel at in the country.
A few standouts – like the Kariakoo Market structure and the Old Boma House that I know of – are Tanzanian designed and built. Some buildings stand out, like St. Peters Church, St. Joseph/Azania Cathedral, Kilimanjaro Hotel, and New African Hotel, but are these the work of Tanzanians?
Thus, there is a long way to go for our country not only to manage the growth of cities that are developed from a comprehensive master plan but also to incorporate various mixed-use land planning standards for cities that feature commercial, residential, and industrial areas.
Far more important is for our planners, architects, and engineers to be a part of the solution and not rely solely on foreign-based initiatives. To achieve that, Tanzanians must level up their professional credentials to meet the global standard.
One way to achieve this is to impose a rigorous standard of qualifications, standards of conduct and ethics, such that standard violation could have a dire consequence for any practitioner’s future ability to practice the craft.
A century ago, anyone could work as an engineer without proof of competency. But to protect public health, safety, and welfare, engineering licensure law has become necessary in all developed nations and, now more than ever, has become a global standard.
The requirement should be to become licensed as a professional engineer, one must complete a four-year college degree, work under a professional engineer for at least four years, pass two intensive competency exams and earn a license from their country’s professional licensure board.
Then, to retain their licenses, professional engineers must continually maintain and improve their skills throughout their careers by combining their specialised skills with their high standards for ethics and quality assurance of the projects they undertake.
To a client, it means you’ve got the credentials to earn their trust. To an employer, it signals your ability to take on a higher level of responsibility. Among your colleagues, it demands respect. To yourself, it’s a symbol of pride and a measure of your hard-won achievement.
For example, in the United States, where I live and work, every state regulates engineering practices to ensure public safety by granting only professional engineers the authority to sign and seal engineering plans and offer their services to the public.
To use the professional engineer seal, engineers must complete several steps to ensure competency.
They have to earn a four-year degree in engineering from an accredited engineering program and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Professional engineers must also complete four years of progressive engineering experience under a PE and pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.
Here also, professional engineers must continuously demonstrate competency and maintain and improve their skills by fulfilling continuing education requirements depending on the state where they are licensed.
Establishing these high standards, coupled with our country’s commitment to improving infrastructure and projected cities and towns growth as the economy improves, would offer so much opportunity for the country’s best engineers to gain knowledge, improve their skill set and participate in the development of our nation.
This commitment will take a long time, but Tanzania and Africa need to think ahead for us to sustain and guarantee long-term economic growth. We need a large pool of appropriately trained engineers to help with the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure.
Some of the work can be done with the help of foreign engineers initially. Still, overall, the routine maintenance and additional construction will require significant and timely creation of local capacity. Such investments will pay off in the long run through reductions in maintenance costs.
The other advantage of establishing professional engineer certification standards is to enable the country to maintain reliable records on the training and deployment of its engineers at home and abroad.
Access to such a database would provide a rigorous way to gauge competence, know-how, experience and skill levels while at the same time discouraging unethical and poor performance.
Those highly rated professional engineers would have the best opportunities to apply, bid, compete and seek engagement in the highly complex and lucrative infrastructure and engineering projects in the country.
Heriki Sali is a U.S.-based Tanzanian entrepreneur. He’s available at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.