Kenya has secured a Sh2.5 billion loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to help train more engineers.
The development comes in the wake of a revelation by a senior government official that the country is in urgent need of at least 30,000 engineers if it is to achieve the Vision 2030 goal of becoming a middle income economy in 17 years.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Higher Education, Prof Crispus Kiamba, said the soft loan will see 750 engineers trained in five years starting this year.
“The Sh2.5 billion funding will enable us train 750 engineers drawn from several areas of specialisation at masters and PhD level. Our mission to achieve economic blueprint espoused in Vision 2030 will be a mirage without these experts,” he said.
The programme is targeted at Master’s degree and PhD students because there are few engineers trained up to these levels in Kenya.
“For some time now, the number of students enrolling for engineering courses in our universities has been declining. Very few are going past first degrees, something that is a matter of concern to us,” he said.
The scholarship positions will be filled through liaison with Kenyan universities offering engineering courses.
“We will work with university managements across the country to be able to get this number from their engineering faculties,” he said, adding that it is not an open scholarship programme.
The shortage of engineers has forced technology firms like IBM to seek expatriates. Last week, IBM launched a search for skilled engineers in the US for its Nairobi research lab— the only IBM research lab in Africa.
The firm is seeking persons who have finished or is finishing their doctorate degree courses in areas like computer science and electrical engineering.
Prof Kiamba said areas of study include mechanical, electrical, and biotechnology, chemical, civil and petroleum engineering.
The country is need of petroleum engineers following the discovery of commercially viable deposits of oil in Turkana.
“With the new development in Turkana, it means we must invest more in Kenyan petroleum and chemical engineers or else we will be forced to rely on expatriates in exploiting this resource, something that will not be good for our economy.”
He said the huge deficit had partly been created by low uptake of these courses by students who graduate from universities and the fact that training engineers is expensive.
Part of the money will be used to set up a learning centre at the University of Nairobi to offer environmental-related courses in honour of the late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.
“Sh600 million will be used to build Wangari Maathai Institute at Nairobi University to promote environmental studies as well,” he said.