Engineering failures continue to plague African countries. Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana have been under heavy scrutiny by both its people and its governments due to unsafe civil engineering practices that have left many dead in the last few years. In Nigeria, the lack of a structural engineer was one of the reasons given for the collapse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations that left 115 people dead. In Kenya, after the collapse of a six-storey building, the Deputy Governer of Nairobi said that seventy percent of buildings in the country are erected without proper certification. There is an engineering ethics problem in Africa, but nothing is being done to change it.

Ghanaian publication, Graphic Online, has berated their president, John Dramani Mahama for not doing anything about the annual floods that occur in Accura due to what the publication claims are ‘engineering failures’. They wrote: “Mr President, we appeal to you apply the whip on your appointees, especially metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives who fail to use the statutory authority of their assemblies to compel the people to respect the laws.”

EIT Stock ImageThe engineering experts in Ghana have said that Accra is located in low-lying areas that are susceptible to flooding due to where the houses had been constructed in the first place. Furthermore, the draining systems are overcrowded with rubbish due to the residents who dump their rubbish into the drainage systems. The experts are saying a proper, effective drainage system is needed and then the city can address problems with litter and other issues. The publication thinks that underground drainage systems would be better for the area because open drain systems have been a target for the city to turn the drain into a landfill.  

However, whoever first constructed the drains must have known that at some point there was going to be a problem with waste management. Why would they build it in any case? It becomes an ethics issue. From the process of awarding the contracts to construction companies to the unethical building of unsafe drainage networks and buildings around Africa.

The Dean of Engineering at the Engineering Institue of Technology, Steve Mackay has broached the topic of engineering ethics in the latest episode of his YouTube series, Engineering News Network. He said: “Ethics for engineers means engineers in the fulfillment of their professional duties shall uphold paramount the safety, health and welfare of their fellow citizens. That should be the highest possible consideration. It’s a very expensive process if you want to rip the system but ethics is something that we as engineers and technical professionals have to do all the time.”

Mackay outlines what the American Society of Civil Engineers believes are the fundamentals of ethical engineering. They’re something that engineering entities in Africa should be focused on, but regrettably, are mostly ignoring. 

  • Hold safety, health and welfare of your fellow citizen in high regard
  • Only work in areas where you are competent. Don’t build bridges if you’re an electronics design engineer for circuit boards. Focus on your areas of competence
  • Be truthful and objective in everything you do. Be honest, tell the truth and be objective when you communicate and talk to others. 
  • Try and hold the highest professional standards in whatever you do. Don’t take shortcuts, don’t go for the cheap and nasty approach. 
  • Avoid conflicts of interest 
  • Ensure that your professional reputation is built on real, objective successes. 
  • Have zero tolerance for fraud, corruption, bribery. Say no. 
  • Always focus on enhancing your skills 

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