$32,000 Prize Award for Engineering Excellency: Will Africa Follow Suit?

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Recently, a 27-year-old Nigerian Godwin Benson won an engineering award given by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering for developing a tutoring app.

The App called Tuteria, is a platform, which does not only link qualified tutors to students in their area, it equally helps the students make a good choice of the tutors based on their budgets.

Godwin Benson, who developed the APP based on his experiences as a tutor, beat 16 other participants to win the prestigious award, which was launched in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014.

“It is something that solves the problem of access to quality, personalised learning and helps people earn income from sharing their knowledge,” the proud winner of the award told the BBC during an interview.

No doubt, just like other parts of the world, Africa is blessed with intelligent, talented, serious- minded and innovative minds. However, one of the biggest challenges facing Africa is the government`s support. I am not sure I buy the idea that the Whites are more “intelligent“ (if we can first define what “intelligence“ is!!) than Africans. No! The major difference is that the Western government`s educational/social system tries to diligently find the best in you and help you develop that individual talent. You are provided with opportunities and incentives to develop your potentials. Is that same in Africa? Hardly.  We have a situation in Africa where merit comes behind “connection“ and godfatherism. The most qualified individual is not chosen for an opportunity simply because they don`t have those powerful elements standing behind them. Someone who has a degree in religious studies is given a job in the bank at the expense of a genius with a first class degree in banking and finance or accountancy. Why? Because the latter perhaps knows the director of the bank. Your guess is as good as mine, the economic implications of such a nepotism and misplaced, irrational decision.

Even with the above abominable, irresponsible choice, in most cases, a university degree seems to be a prerequisite for a good job in Africa. That creates unnecessary impediments and uncertainties in the future of those who either cannot afford the university education, or are not equipped mentally for such type of study. Unlike in the West, where every detailed attention is paid to the potentials and capabilities of individuals – no matter how little they could be – African leaders hardly promote a technical institution or knowledge. A child might not be good at the university, but still possess incredibly sound technical knowledge to achieve other things in life. That child might be good with his hands. A country like Germany pays much detailed attention to technical knowledge to the extent that a certificate is demanded for every single profession. From carpentry to blacksmithing, down to a bricklaying, you are fully encouraged to not only discover and pursue your potentials, but you are equally expected to be an expert in that field you are good in. From the German berufsschule (professional school), you must go through a professional training in a   company or in the hands of a professional (eg. carpentry company or a carpenter for that matter). At the end of the day, you are not only qualified and competent in your field, no matter the area, you are equally proud of your profession. How many African carpenters or bricklayers went to a special school for carpentry or have a government recognised certificate in bricklaying? How many of them are proud of their profession? Does this explain why Africans look at carpenters, gardeners, cooks with contempt? In fact, the importance of professionalism in Europe was such that professionals like blacksmiths were amongst the most respected (and richest for that) professions in the Middle Age. What does that tell us about the encouragement of all individual potentials?

Back to the engineering innovation award. Interestingly (or would one say, sadly?), the award, which was launched in 2014 to reward innovators in sub-Saharan Africa, was not started by our own African leaders. Yet, these African leaders claim to encourage economic development in their various countries. How can one expect economic miracles without first tapping the potentials amongst the developers? Unless we try to identify various individual potentials and seriously encourage and harvest them, Africa will continue its snail- speed walk towards positive economic metamorphosis.


Photo:  www.norad.no