East Africa architects to harmonise practice, education and training

President of the Architectural Association of Kenya Florence Nyole. [Courtesy]

East African architects plan to harmonise their practice, education and training across the region in two years despite Tanzania’s delay in signing the pact with the rest of the member sections.

This is according to Wycliffe Waburiri, chairperson of the Architects Chapter of the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), which is a member of the 111-year-old East Africa Institute of Architects (EAIA).

The institute brings together member organisations from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda to create a community of architects under the respective associations. Waburiri said this recently during an annual East Africa Institute Council Meeting of the EAIA in Arusha Tanzania.

The meeting reviewed the institute’s five-point strategic plan and took stock of progress made.

The plan proposes to among other things ensure the full participation of all 13 countries of the East African Community (EAC).

“It also plans to increase EAIA revenue to cover all institute business and activities, increase EAIA brand visibility and awareness; harmonise architectural practice across the region as well as harmonising education and training for architects across the region by 2027,” said Waburiri.

The institute also resolved to evaluate the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) to find out why it has not worked as envisaged when it was signed in 2011.

The MRAs are formal agreements between architectural regulators in various jurisdictions to mutually recognise the architectural credentials and qualifications of their registrants. They provide a path for them to obtain registration across participating jurisdictions.

The council also approved the Board of Practice and Ethics’ budget proposal, which will among other things, enable it to facilitate its observer missions during professional examinations across the region. To realise a wider reach and impact of the EAIA President’s Award, it was suggested that a bursary scheme be created instead of the students’ competition.

Institute’s achievements

The council also proposed a raft of measures to realise brand visibility, including revamping and reactivating the institute’s website, adopting and using the compendium of documents across the region and the EAIA logo on section members’ merchandise.

AAK was commended for its vibrant publications programme and given a central role in the institute’s publications. The council also reviewed a dummy copy of the 2023 EAIA Yearbook that highlights the institute’s achievements over the year - marking 111 years of its existence. In attendance were representatives from South Sudan.

The institute is also seeking to add to its membership South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia as active participants in the Institute. Somalia formally joined the EAC this year, DRC in March 2022 and South Sudan in September 2016. The MRA is negotiated by the EAC Common Market Protocol pillar.

According to the President of the Architectural Association of Kenya Florence Nyole, four out of the five countries including Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and DRC have signed the MRA to ensure that there was harmony in cross-border practice within the region. Once signed, it will follow the engineers’ MRA, which was signed 12 years ago by Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania -  now in operation.

“The trade-in services instrument has so far enabled at least 50 professionals to practice across the borders but within the region. The mandate of the Institute to harmonise the architectural practice as well as education and training is crucial for smooth cross-border practice and operationalisation of this MRA in East Africa,” said Nyole.

“The first matter is to ensure standardised qualification of architects, which provides a common framework to ensure architects from different countries possess equivalent skills and knowledge. This fosters trust between clients and architects, allowing them to work across borders seamlessly.”

Ms Nyole asked that the projects be done collaboratively. “This new way of working extends consistency in standards, thus allowing architects from different countries to collaborate effectively on regional projects,” she said.

Tanzania’s delay in signing the MRA, Ms Nyole said stems from a combination of factors, including the protection of local opportunities. “It is speculated that Tanzania might be hesitant due to concerns about protecting job opportunities for its domestic architects. An influx of qualified architects from other member states could increase competition in the Tanzanian market,” she said.

 “There is also a concern about qualifications due to the different education systems across the region. In Kenya, the course takes six years and is done in a two-tier system whereas in Tanzania, the students take five years to complete the architectural course.”