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Opinions of Monday, 28 February 2022

Columnist: Kwaku A. Danso

Waiting for engineers to build Africa?

Human Resources are used to extract natural resources for survival Human Resources are used to extract natural resources for survival

Utlilising Material and Human Resources

Growing up in the early 1950s before Independence, we used to see airplanes flying overhead in my small town of Abetifi, that town of many rich folks up the mountains some 90 miles from the Ghana capital of Accra.

As kids, we used to wave at the planes just in case somebody up there could see us poor kids on earth!

We all have heard our politicians talk about how rich Africa is! We all talk about the minerals and other natural resources in Ghana and Africa and we all thump our chests with pride!

Let’s stop and think for a minute.

Human Resources are used to extract Natural Resources for survival! Is that not true? Gold and Diamonds don’t just wash off the shores like in the old fantasy tales! Sometimes you even need a little Capital also!

In the post Independence era, in the first nine years under Nkrumah, the most selfish and greedy forces unleashed on Ghana as leaders forgot that Ghana was a rich country! Or if you excuse the language, were they too naive to realise that human societies are built by leaders using engineers! - Engineers by themselves don’t just start building society! No!

In the post-independence era, Ghana had students sent overseas to study as engineers in these areas:

- Aerospace,
- Agriculture,
- Building Technology
- Mechanical,
- Civil,
- Chemical,
- Electrical /Power systems
- Electronics,
- Marine
- Materials Sciences & Engineering
- Metallurgy,
- Petroleum,
- Roads & Highways,
- Telecommunications (IT)
- Transportation systems
- Water Resource

This started in the early 1960s. Many Western nations felt the need to help the new African nations. Perhaps they felt guilty of the past. But all the same, we had good nations like Germany, the UK, the Soviet Union, America, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Australia, etc, all generous to offer scholarships to students from Ghana.


Occasionally you hear people talk about those who went overseas not returning home to help build their nation.

QUESTION: how many 22-year-olds graduate from the university and start building nations?

Even if you want to point to the American situation and cite people like Bill Gates of Microsoft and the late Steve Jobs of Apple who dropped out of college, please study the history of Venture Capitalists in America from the 1800s- the time of Thomas Edison and the story of Banker JP Morgan.


- Did the Ghana Government keep track of these students?

- Even if some of them returned to teach at our Universities, mostly KNUST, what happened to the Human Resources needed to build Ghana?

- Did anybody in power have a PLAN?

- Did any of the big boys think Engineers simply walk out of the top Engineering Schools and start building bridges and airplanes, trains, and telecom systems?

I used the word naive above because some of our own colleagues who were into political power failed to realise the need for HR in building a nation.

Sure we used to build mud houses in the villages without engineers, and some boys used to connect discarded wires in the village to batteries and bulbs, and we called them engineers. Funny indeed!

Did our colleagues in high schools who studied Economics, Law, Sociology, and Business at the university and who were recruited into Government, understand this simple PRINCIPLE that it takes engineers and architects to design and supervise the construction of roads and modern houses and buildings and provide water and electricity, radio, television, telecommunication services in society? And it takes Capital or 'Sika'!

I am just asking oo! It is hard to imagine anybody, educated or not, would fail to realise this. It is also hard to think that anybody would believe that once a student graduates from university they are ready to build a nation! No!

In the last 10 years, I have hired a few Software Engineers from Ghana and from India to develop an Application software for my company. I know the problems and challenges. Who is to give these graduates the challenge and the experience before they start making contributions?

The questions for Ghana and for the international community are: can an engineering degree by itself help build a nation? Who creates the opportunity for the young engineer to gain valuable experience after which his academic knowledge is mature enough to start contributing effectively to building a nation?

I am just asking oo!