Africa's development is hindered by poor infrastructure, writes Calestous Juma in this article in The East African.
Infrastructure promotes agricultural trade, integrates economies into world markets, helps deliver health and education services and fosters productive employment.
Regional projects like the proposed modernisation of the Kenya-Uganda railway can help build domestic engineering capabilities, but more international efforts are needed, says Juma.
He points to the Grainger Foundation — which is offering US$1 million for a low-cost solution to treating arsenic-contaminated groundwater in Bangladesh — as an example of an initiative that could be mimicked in Africa.
In particular, he argues for more engineering academies to engage young engineers and practitioners and generate innovative solutions to sustainable development. Africa has 12 national science academies, as well as a continental one, but only one engineering academy.
He says that the African Union summit in January 2007 offers a rare opportunity for the continent's leaders to link engineering education to infrastructure investment.