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Michael Price , , , ,

Carnegie Mellon Rwanda to Train East Africa’s New Engineers

Rwanda, already recognized by the United Nations as East Africa’s high-tech hub, is looking to boost its regional influence by partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to offer graduate degrees in engineering. Rwandan and university officials today announced the creation of Carnegie Mellon Rwanda, an academic
program based in Kigali they hope will offer advanced engineering and management training, as well as international internships and job placement, primarily to students from Rwanda and its East African neighbors. It will be the first program to offer a graduate degree granted by a foreign university on African soil.

The program initially will offer a master of science degree in information technology, and more academic tracks will be added over time. A Ph.D. program has been proposed but that proposal isn’t definite, says Pradeep K. Khosla, head of CMU’s College of Engineering.

Carnegie Mellon Rwanda will aim to enroll approximately 40 students in its first semester in fall 2012, Khosla says, and then to raise that number to 150 by 2017. The program will use the same admission and academic standards as Carnegie Mellon’s main campus in
Pittsburgh. Khosla says the program will look to hire top-tier professors from all over the world, though he expects finding faculty could still be a big challenge.

But will Rwanda be prepared to offer jobs to a surge of new highly trained engineers? Khosla says that while that is indeed a concern, Rwanda is better prepared than most other African nations to do so. “Are they poised [to take advantage of the new engineers] today? Probably not,” he says. “But are they on the right trajectory? I think so.”

Rwanda is experiencing an economic boom, with sustained GDP growth of 8% annually over the past five years, numerous new telecom businesses, and an ambitious
federal project to lay fiber-optic cable across much of the country
. Khosla predicts that Rwanda’s burgeoning wireless and mobile networks will see the most immediate benefit from the new engineers.

Khosla hopes Carnegie Mellon Rwanda will serve as an example to other universities, encouraging them to invest in degree-granting programs in Africa to help African nations build modern infrastructures. “There are a billion people [in Africa],” he says. “The world will not be better off if they’re left behind.”