In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, that the country has experienced in recent years due to tropical cyclones Idai, Ana, Gombe and Freddy — that devastated public and private infrastructure — Malawi engineers are now focused to “build back better”.
This is the theme of the 2023 conference & annual general meeting for the Malawi Engineering Institute to be held on November 9-10 at Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima, whose emphasis it to mitigate effects of climate change on infrastructure.
In support of the all-important gathering, Electricity Generation Company (Malawi) Limited (EGENCO) — itself an engineering-based institution — has sponsored the conference with K5 million; taking cognizance of the significant influence that engineering has in modern society.
At the handover of the support on Tuesday at EGENCO head office in Blantyre, acting Chief Executive Officer, Eng. Dr. Maxon Chitawo said they value engineering as it has “a significant impact on various sectors of the economy and society”.
“It is the discipline that has significantly contributed to making this world a better place for us to live in,” he said.
“By designing and building structures and systems, optimizing existing ones, and developing new technologies, engineering has shaped the operations and management of business in this world.
“You cannot talk of manufacturing, construction, transport, communication, electrification, etc. without engineering. Engineering has contributed to improving our health and safety and making it easier for us to connect and trade with each other.”
He further emphasized that the “influence of engineering in shaping this world to make it a better place to live in, will continue to grow” and that “it is necessary for engineers to continuously engage and interact with each other to share lessons learnt from past experiences and to gain new insights on how to shape the future”.
He thus added that Malawi Engineering Institute is an essential stakeholder to EGENCO as all its engineers are under the institution and that the company is sending 21 of them as delegates to the conference to gain lessons from the deliberations.
On the theme ‘Building Back, Better’, Chitao said it resonates well with EGENCO’s plans to rebuild resilient infrastructure as they have been victims of climate change having experienced its effects first hand.
Cyclone Ana in 2022 damaged EGENCO’s dam at Kapichira Hydro Power Station that led to challenges to electricity generate for over a year, which was successfully restored in May 2023.
When Cyclone Freddy hit the country, EGENCO was in the process to rebuilding the dam, that affected meeting deadline for restoration of 130 megawatts of power that Kapichira lost from the grid.
However, Chitao said EGENCO was more prepared for Freddy as they had to suspend power generation operations during that period in March to preserve machines.
“It is clear to see that we are affected by climate change,” he emphasized. “This is the reason we have taken interest in MEI’s initiative to discuss the effects of this phenomenon.
“We are glad to see that MEI will explore how to prepare for disasters that result from climate change, how to mitigate them sustainably through engineering, and develop guidelines and standards for climate change resilient infrastructure.
“We strongly believe that a grouping of all engineers of the country, in one place, should be able to look into this challenge and come up with solutions,” he said, while pledging that where the opportunity will arise, EGENCO was ready to share its own lessons.
“Indeed, we have lessons to share — lessons on how we rose back from the Kapichira disaster, and on how we successfully handled Cyclone Freddy. It was our very own engineers who brought back Kapichira; it was also our very own engineers that managed Cyclone Freddy.
“Other companies and the country as a whole can indeed learn from our experiences so that we can all, ‘Build Back, Better.”
MEI is the mother body of all engineers in Malawi, responsible for their qualifications, registration and discipline, which MEI Board Member Susan Bonongwe Mponda also emphasized in her vote of thanks.
She said going forward, after the resolutions from the conference, they expect engineers to design climate change resilient structures, saying the country lost millions of investment structures through the tropical cyclone-induced floods.
“We will discuss how we can be prepared for climate challenges by making sure engineering standards are not compromised,” she said, adding that Malawi has in abundance highly qualified engineers but are compromised due to low resource allocation.
She emphasized that the country has very capable engineers but what they lack are the resources that should be allocated to empower their shortfalls.