The 'value added' of engineers

The 'value added' of engineers

Can the engineering profession make a difference in the investments of donor agencies?

We need a ‘systems’ and co-ordinated approach

  • Donor agencies have shown various levels of commitment to help alleviate poverty in developing countries, by investing in infrastructure and other systems. Some of the donor agencies focus on small town infrastructure systems while others look at huge trans-regional/national projects
  • Recent trends in infrastructural developments point towards building critical infrastructure, not just more development. A systems co-ordinated view of projects to derive the maximum synergy from them is therefore imperative to meet the UN MDG targets by 2015
  • But, how much development is enough? Financial resources have not been unlimited for any donor agency, while substantial capital investment is still required to make a real impact. Besides, the 2007-10 economic crisis has left the economies of many donor countries in difficult situations
  • Planning and execution of projects today have a lot more constraints. Issues such as climate change, energy efficiency, environmental impact assessment, sustainability and anti-corruption are high on the agenda. Value for money is critical for the success of any infrastructure project

Engage engineers in donor agencies to bridge the policy/financial planning and design gap

"Doing a job unsatisfactorily and then getting someone in to sort it out can be much more expensive than getting someone in to do the job properly in the first place” - Sarah Beeny

What do engineers bring to the table?
Failure to engage the engineering profession in meeting international development needs will impact negatively on the MDG targets.

Engaging engineers, especially in donor agencies/banks, will bring the following benefits:

  • Effective management of cash-flow and budgets on projects to minimise cost overruns and variations
  • Environmental sustainability through the selection and review of projects prior to funding
  • Value for money on projects
  • Designs and design modification that potentially can arrest corruption
  • Synergy in project selection by using a systems approach
  • New schemes compliant with energy efficiency ratings and requirements consistent with best practices

The engineered road to the donor agencies/banks

  1. Most engineers have not positioned themselves strategically to lead this field

  2. working effectively in such an environment requires knowledge in project planning and management, financial administration /management and policy planning

  3. Engineering knowledge alone does not bridge this gap

  4. Engaging the development community in the role that engineers can play in development is important

Further reading

Foster, V, Overhauling the Engine of Growth: Infrastructure in Africa

World Bank, Unit Cost of Infrastructure Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa