Feature: Chinese-sponsored tech contest helping African youth discover their potential

Updated: July 26, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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NAIROBI, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Wearing a crisp white coat and her face glowing, Ariekot Faith walked briskly along the corridors of a workshop for training mechanical engineering students at the Technical University of Kenya, located in downtown Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

Faith, 23, has defied cultural myths in her native Uganda to prove her mettle at a mid-level college where she is pursuing a diploma in mechanical engineering.

Faith is among more than 70 young people from eight African countries who have been shortlisted to participate in the month-long eighth edition of Africa Tech Challenge, sponsored by Chinese firm AVIC International, a globally diversified holding business group.

Speaking to Xinhua on the sidelines of the contest's launch ceremony Monday, Faith said she looked forward to mentorship, exposure, and hands-on training that would enable her to become a competent engineer.

"This contest will definitely improve my competence in the engineering field given that we will be taken through a rigorous training process, covering theory and practice," |Faith said.

The eighth edition of the Africa Tech Challenge, which will be hosted by the Technical University of Kenya, will be held under the theme of "Role of Engineering in Driving Industrialization in Africa."

The contestants will be evaluated on their competence in applying cutting-edge construction technologies like computer-aided design (CAD) as well as lathe machines.

Besides scooping cash prizes, the top winners will be awarded certificates of recognition and fully funded scholarships to pursue engineering-related disciplines at Chinese universities.

Esther Muoria, the principal secretary of the State Department for Technical, Vocational Education and Training at Kenya's Ministry of Education, said that participating in Africa Tech Challenge will refine the technical and entrepreneur skills of youthful contestants while boosting their employability.

"Our youth are going to leverage on this tech challenge to acquire skills, push boundaries of human potential and become trailblazers in innovations that are required to realize a sustainable future," Muoria remarked.

At the expansive workshop fitted with computer numerical control (CNC) machines, Hamis Mwale, a 20-year-old Zambian youth could not hide excitement as he braced for the technology contest that will run from July 24 to Aug. 25.

Currently pursuing mechanical engineering at a mid-level college in Zambia, Mwale said being shortlisted for the Africa Tech Challenge was an honor, and he looked forward to upgrading his skills in the use of modern industrial machines.

Mwale added that his brief interaction with contestants from other African countries had been fruitful, having learned from them key aspects of computer numerical control machines that are used in advanced manufacturing.

Ma Changyuan, AVIC International representative in Kenya, said the 72 contestants in this year's Africa Tech Challenge are expected to acquire life-changing skills amid hands-on training, mentorship, and peer learning.

According to Ma, the youthful contestants will be taken through a process of self-discovery and personal growth, boosting their ability to work in highly competitive and culturally diverse industries of the future.

Barbara Chepngetich, a 23-year-old Kenyan youth, currently pursuing mechanical engineering at a mid-level college, said she was participating in Africa Tech Challenge for the first time, and looked forward to a happy ending.

While acknowledging that engineering remains a male-dominated field, Chepngetich said the presence of many female contestants at the challenge gave her hope of cutting a niche for herself and inspiring younger peers.

"As a young female, I expect growth in this contest. I want to gain some skills and so far can operate CNC machines due to exposure that I have gained in the challenge," Chepngetich said.

The Africa Tech Challenge, since its launch in 2014 has resonated with the continent's youth, given its promise of skills development, mentorship, and linkage to potential employers, said Tsatssi Itai, the team leader of Zimbabwe's contestants.

Kamutimbe, a 24-year-old Zimbabwean youth who is pursuing mechanical engineering at a polytechnic in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, said that he was excited to participate in the Africa Tech Challenge, and looked forward to upgrading technical and social skills.

According to Itai, the contest has helped bridge the skills gap that has stifled Africa's industrial progress, adding that competence in the use of computer-aided machines could open new revenue streams for the continent's youth.

Editor: Su Dan