THERE is no doubt that engineering plays a key role in backing up the growth and development of a country’s economy as well as in refining the quality of life for citizens.
As such, there is an important link between a country’s engineering capability and its economic development.
Undoubtedly engineers not only in Zambia but the world over are becoming increasingly essential.
True, as the world becomes more and more dependent on technology, engineers will become increasingly influential in industries.
Nobody can doubt the importance of engineers to any society as being historically of great importance and that trend is only likely to increase over time.
It is further believed that engineers and their labours are, in effect, transforming the theoretical to the practical for the betterment of all.
We therefore fully understand and support the homages to our local engineers by the chairman of the Energy Forum of Zambia Mr Johnstone Chikwanda.
Mr Chikwanda says Zambian engineers have contributed greatly to the energy sector as well as mining, telecommunication infrastructure, transportation among other industries.
He however admits that there is still room for improvement especially with regard to design aspects.
It is here where we also think that our Zambian engineers have grossly been a big letdown because after 55 years of independence we still import silly products such as toothpicks, buttons, razor blades and sewing needles to mention but a few.
It is because of this lack of designing of implements for industrial production that has made Zambia a dumping ground for various second class products.
For instance Zambia exports groundnuts to South Africa for roasting and making peanut butter which it then exports back to Zambia at a higher profit margin because our engineers cannot design simple machines to make high quality peanut butter.
Do some Zambians remember the Black Cat and Yummy peanut butter brands from South African which are still doing some rounds in our local supermarkets?
Zambia is a net exporter of cement, but have our chemical and road engineers ever sat down together to come up with Zambia’s own brand materials for making even stronger , long-lasting roads instead of depending on the late John MacAdam , the Scottish engineer who invented the macadam road surface (black tar)?
Each rainy season has bad reminiscences of washed away roads and bridges because of what we suspect could be the work of bad engineering in the first place.
We don’t think there is a chance whatsoever for our engineers to design a local motor vehicle using the same important technology that Toyota, General Motors of US or Mitsubishi to mention but a few are using to manufacture vehicles.
Or are they waiting to invent a wheel that has already been conceived before they can be seen to stir to action and begin to produce machines and implements to help grow our economy?
India today boasts of the largest and strongest cottage industry in the world because of the good support it has continued to receive from its engineering fraternity.
We think therefore that our Engineering Institution of Zambia (EIZ) should rise to the occasion and change its picture on the technological front and help Zambia build a vibrant economy.
They have to make the first move instead of always crying that they are not being passably supported by government.
Let them come up with models of their products and we are more than sure that government will not only see their efforts but also gamely support them.
This they must do because engineering in our world today has become rapidly more technology dependent and the reliance on good technology will make engineers increasingly central.