South Africa has an opportunity to achieve a similar result to that of China, which has lifted hundreds of millions of its citizens from poverty to prosperity, but the challenge is to develop world-class customer-focused engineers.

This was according to South African Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE) president Pat Naidoo, who delivered his address, titled ‘Towards customer-focused engineers for public utilities’, during the Civilution Congress, in Ekurhuleni, earlier this month.

With 26 years of experience working for State-owned power utility Eskom, Naidoo noted that it was important to ensure customers were satisfied with the service they received from utilities, which included ensuring a 100% service availability, long-term sustainability and zero faults or disturbances, as well as zero accidents to employees, the public and the environment.

“Customers provide engineers with the opportunity to grow and develop their careers and the opportunity to serve and prosper. Industry, academia and engineers must work together and engineers must be customer-aware, -sensitive and -focused to provide continuous professional development,” he stated.

Further, Naidoo stressed that the preparation for the pipeline of future engineers must start at school level and added that engineers should invest in growing South Africa’s quality-of-life future.

He noted that, since 1909, South African engineers have tabled excellent results, ensuring a better quality of life for citizens.

However, in recent years, South Africa struggled to deliver improved quality of life, resulting in two communities – one with twentieth century infrastructure and one without, he stated.

Naidoo pointed out that South Africa was usually a ‘restless country’ owing to the lack of public-service delivery and he discussed methods that would ensure the nation was more economically productive, despite its challenges.

“We have natural resources, technologies and financial resources, but the gap is with the engineering leadership, which lacks a sharp customer focus. Engineers must lead and manage utilities,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Naidoo highlighted that the economic and employment opportunities in South Africa were unlimited but suggested that black economic empowerment and similar programmes should be scrapped, as they were not effective.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu

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