Let the engineers of Africa stand up

I have visited a number of African countries and one thing that is noteworthy is that most of them have embarked on various construction projects like road expansion. I know Africa needs infrastructure, no one denies that. However, contractors and engineers on site are either Chinese or other foreigners, making one wonder what happened to African engineers.
But why is it that our infrastructure can only be built by foreigners yet our public universities have big faculties of engineering complete with professors and students to boot? Are our governments and the private sector trying to create the picture that construction and other technical jobs are too hard for Africans?
Our resource-rich countries have enough cash to pay for the machinery and the required supplies so it would be great if we give those jobs to our fellow Africans. I remember I once shared this concern with an acquaintance from the West who told me that if our countrymen were allowed to work on certain projects, they would collapse in exhaustion in no given time.
I think this is a biased generalisation reeking of racism. I am not trying to play the race card here but only pointing out that there are well-qualified engineers all over Africa who could design new infrastructure and do the actual construction.
I think the problem lies with our greedy leaders who are keen on kickbacks from foreign firms. I know the preference for foreign companies has got nothing to do with levels of intelligence but maybe training and experience. It might take fairly deep pockets to start a firm capable of paving good roads and importing construction equipment but those Africans who have tried up to this level still fail to win these contracts unless the company is directly linked to a ruling party politician.
Empowering locals
That is just the nature of the politics of contracts in Africa. I know our governments can import the machinery then pay locals to do the job. Any leader who is interested in the development of his nation would invest in the necessary inputs that allow locals do the job.
We could also invest in long-term approaches of starting an exchange programme with either Chinese or Western varsities where engineering students learn different skills. Local engineers could also be sent to go and learn how to use the sophisticated infrastructure in either China or any other developed country then come back and build the required infrastructure at home. This would be the only way to foster development and boost the morale of our engineers and empower them.
I am not saying that the Chinese and other foreigners should leave but it is time we in Africa showed the rest of the world that we got unique skills and abilities as well.
It is time we decreased our dependency on foreigners for development and start using locals. This would also go a long way in lifting many out of poverty and stop the looting of Africa’s resources by foreigners. It will also put Africans on a higher pedestal globally as far as our economic outlook is concerned.
The rest of the world would then start respecting us.
Twitter:@JanetOtieno