Southern Africa short of skilled staff in oil and gas

Sunday April 30 2017

By Zephania Ubwani @ubwanizg3

Arusha. The eastern and southern Africa region is short of skilled professionals such as engineers, geoscientists and mechanical technicians who are now in high demand in the oil, gas and allied sectors.

The concern was raised early this week in Addis Ababa by a senior official of the Ethiopian ministry of Education, Dr Zerihun Kebede, during a high level meeting of education experts from the region.

He said this was the case despite a high demand for graduates in the emerging sectors with high growth potential such as oil and gas, energy, extractives and railways industries.

“Emerging sectors with high growth potential across eastern and southern African region face a shortage of skilled professionals with specialised knowledge such as the engineers and geoscientists,” he said.

He, therefore, called on the higher learning institutions in Africa to lay much emphasis on practical teaching and learning approach rather than on the theoretical lessons.

“Theory dominated teaching, learning traditional approach cannot bring the substantial socio-economic change,” he said, emphasizing the linkage between university teaching with the industry.

Dr Kebede noted that university-industry cooperation was one of the most important mechanisms for practical application of science and technology as well as the development of the industries.

He was speaking at the biannual technical and advisory meeting of the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence Project (ACE II) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The meeting brought together leaders of the 24 Africa Centres of Excellence (ACEs) from the eight countries hosting the project including Tanzania. The others are Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The overall objective of the project is to strengthen selected higher education institutions in the region to deliver quality post-graduate education and build collaborative research capacity.

Dr Kebede said science and engineering education, in particular, should be supported with practical activity “to produce knowledgeable, well-skilled and resourceful as well as self-reliant graduates”.

No statistics were given on the required number of professionals in the oil and gas and allied sectors in the region but ACE II has been mandated to address the deficiency through creation of Centres of Excellence.

The Centres will, among other things, address the critical human resource gaps and innovations in priority areas and each centre will have the potential to become the regionally leading scientific and academic institution.

According to the acting director of World Bank for Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan, Mr Abebaw Alemayehu, at least 24 Centres of Excellence have been identified within eastern and southern Africa.

They have been tasked to promote best training practices in the industry, strengthen national quality standards, serve as knowledge centres and be hubs that link diverse stakeholders with the private sectors.

“We look forward to innovations and research coming out of these centres to strengthen the region’s expertise in health, agriculture, material sciences, extractives, data sciences, railways and ICT applications,” he said.

The executive secretary of Inter University Council for East Africa (Iucea), Prof Alexander Lyambabaje, reiterated the conditions to achieve excellence and sustain the centres beyond the life of the project.

The five year project is financed by the World Bank to a tune of $ 140 million in form of a loan to the eight countries.