The Engineering Council of Namibia is the regulatory body for the engineering profession in the country, which is mandated to set and maintain internationally recognised standards of professional competence and commitment. Dr Francis Smita, a Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of the Namibia Institute of Space Technology at NUST, is now the new president of the ECN. Dr Smita, who holds a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering, is the first female to wear this hat since the Council was established in 1986. She recently answered some questions during an interview for the NUST Brief.
Q. What does it mean to you as the first female in this position?
A. A female president at ECN is an indication of a dynamic shift, ushering a new era in the Namibian engineering profession. I am honoured and it feels like ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ as Engineering is a male-dominated field. I would like to thank the engineering profession members who nominated and supported me. Above all, I would like to thank the Minister of Works and Transport, Honourable John Mutorwa, and my fellow council members for the trust and confidence given me.
Q. What would you say made you eligible for this position?
A. My passion for the profession is reflected in my work, and I believe that is what got me here. I am the founder of the Women in Engineering (WIE) at NUST and the Namibia Women in Engineering Association. WIE has organised a number of workshops targeted at high school female learners in the Khomas Region, introducing them to Engineering and this has a huge impact on the community.
Q. What do your duties as ECN president entail?
A. The ECN’s roles are centred on maintaining the integrity of the profession. Therefore, my tasks, with support from my fellow council members, include overseeing the registration of professional engineers, auditing the standards of the engineering programmes offered in Namibia, as well as making recommendations to the Ministry of Transport and Works on matters related to the engineering sector.
Q. What do you envision for the ECN during and beyond your tenure?
A. I envisage the ushering of a new era where local engineers can initiate the industrialisation of the country, thus prompting economic growth and sustainable development in Namibia. This can be achieved partly by strengthening ties between industry and academia. Additionally, I would like to see an increase in the number of women in this field. No girl should feel intimidated if they wish to pursue this career path.