As the regional integration among the five partner states of the East African Community (EAC) takes shape, so does the liberalisation of the labour market. This means a Rwandan medical doctor or engineer will have the liberty to compete for a job in any member state of the EAC.
However, the recurring issue of discussion is the competence of professionals in Rwanda to favourably compete with others from the other partner states, both locally and in the region.
One of the factors advanced is the level of development and stability of some partner states and the standing of their academic institutions, which gives them a competitive edge over the others.
Rwanda and Burundi have smaller economies in the bloc of a population of 135.4 million inhabitants, with GDP (market price) of $ 84.7bn and this could be affected by the movement of professionals from the three other countries.
Specifically in the engineering sector, experts and practitioners believe that despite the existing challenges, local professionals can as well compete with their counterparts on the market.
The cited challenges include the lack of experience, exposure and capital as well as the small numbers of engineers, which leaves a vacuum for engineers from other countries to flood the local market, leaving little or no room for the budding local practitioners.
John Bosco Talemwa, a mechanisation engineer in the Ministry of Agriculture, says government should invest much in providing capital in the sector to allow professionals try different ideas.
“Engineering is all about try and error; this profession is international and we can favourably compete with others but the challenge is, we lack exposure and capital to try and develop technologies, which is how other countries have developed,” he said.
Though there is no specific number of engineers from member states working in Rwanda, it’s said that the market is still dependent on foreign expertise since they have the experience, and the developers will definitely not gamble on the ‘rookie’ locals with their construction projects.
Dr Leopold Mbereyaho, the dean of faculty of engineering at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) observes that what matters is not the experience, but rather, the sector needs people with the latest technology, and modern skilled workers.
“You can have 50-year experience in the field but without the modern skills that the market requires; we can compete with other regional engineers but what we need is trust by our employees especially private and public sector,” he said.
He said misconceptions will continue hurting the industry in the country, saying it does not make sense for employers to import experts when there are locals with the same qualifications and can easily do the same job.
Mbereyaho pointed out that their institute churns out hundreds of engineers every year, all of which need to get a breakthrough in their career.
Since the establishment of the faculty in 2002, over 5,700 students have graduated in different fields.
Last year, about 725 graduated while this year over 600 were awarded bachelor’s degrees in different engineering fields.
He, however, added that they still have the challenges of inadequate facilities like laboratories to provide practical lectures to the students with aim of expanding their hands-on training to help elevate their knowledge.
At the East African level, engineers from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have signed a mutual recognition agreement to facilitate their free movement in the region leaving Rwanda and Burundi out.
The agreement is seen as a catalyst to facilitate economic integration; increase availability of greater consumer choice of engineering services, increase opportunities for mutual learning and sharing regulatory experience.
Eng. Dismas Nkubana, the head of the Engineer’s Council observed that the council has embarked on assisting local engineers who might want to explore the regional opportunities in other countries by providing recognised certificates that allows them to operate elsewhere.
He said the challenge that remains is the local professionals failure to register with the council noting that this could be a hindrance to their free movement to ply their trade in other countries.
Only 100 engineers have registered and are recognised as experts who can travel and work in the region.
He, however, confirmed that they intend to convene a meeting soon to sign the mutual recognition agreement with other member countries.
Article 10 of EAC Common Market Protocol on the free movement of workers stipulates thus; “partner states hereby guarantee the free movement of workers, who are citizens of the other partner states within their territories,” meaning that workers are eligible to seek and get employed in any partner state.
Types of engineering
Aerospace: Aerospace engineers design, analyse, model, simulate, and test aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, missiles, and rockets.
Agricultural and biological: Agricultural engineers apply knowledge of engineering technology and science to agriculture and the efficient use of biological resources.
Audio: The creation of audio is a unique endeavor that blends both art and science.
Bioengineering and biochemical: Bioengineers study living systems and apply that knowledge to solve various problems. Bioengineering is widely used to destroy wastes and clean up contaminated soil and water.
Biomedical: Biomedical engineers study biology and medicine to develop technologies related to health care.
Ceramic and materials: Ceramic and materials engineers make useful products in many forms from common as well as exotic materials.
Chemical: Chemical engineers discover and manufacture better plastics, paints, fuels, fibers, medicines, fertilisers, semiconductors, paper, and all other kinds of chemicals.
Civil: Civil engineers oversee the construction of the buildings and infrastructure such as highways, skyscrapers, railways, bridges, and water reservoirs.
Computer: Computer engineering is the design, construction, implementation, and maintenance of computers and computer controlled equipment for the benefit of humankind.
Electrical: Electrical engineers build robotics, computer networks, wireless communications, or medical imaging—areas that are at the very forefront of technological innovation.
Environmental: Environmental engineering is the study of ways to protect the environment.
Geological and geophysical: Geological and geophysical engineers draw on the science of geology to study the earth, using engineering principles to seek and develop deposits of natural resources and design foundations for large buildings, bridges, and other structures. Related engineering fields include civil, mineral, mining, and petroleum.
Industrial: Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways to use people, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or to provide a service. Sometimes they are called “efficiency experts.
Manufacturing: Manufacturing means making things. Manufacturing engineers direct and coordinate the processes for making things - from the beginning to the end.
Marine and ocean: These engineering fields are closely related, and deal with the design of ocean vehicles, marine propulsion systems, and marine structures such as harbors, docks, and offshore drilling platforms. These engineers are exploring and developing the natural resources and transportation systems of the ocean.
Mechanical: Mechanical engineers are often referred to as the general practitioners of the engineering profession, since they work in nearly every area of technology, from aerospace and automotive to computers and biotechnology.
Mining: Mining engineers study all phases of extracting mineral deposits from the earth. They design mines and related equipment and supervise their construction and operation.
Nuclear: Nuclear engineers harness the power of the atom to benefit humankind.
Petroleum: Petroleum engineers study the earth to find oil and gas reservoirs. They design oil wells, storage tanks, and transportation systems. They supervise the construction and operation of oil and gas fields