Today the 11th Ethio-Con International Expo will come to a close after five successful days. The event, which sported the message ‘Construction a path to a better future’ has been visited by many throughout last week.
Abera Bekele, Vice Chairman of the Board of the Construction Contractors Association of Ethiopia (CCAE) which organized the exhibition spoke to Capital about the construction sector’s challenges and the way forward.
Capital: What is the significance of the exhibition?
Abera: Such exhibitions do have their own significance, they bring together all the suppliers of construction materials; the contractors who use these materials the consultants and the designers.
Capital: How do you think the exhibition will enhance construction?
Abera: It helps the industry develop by exposing stakeholders to modern materials.
Capital: Can you brief us on the current status of the construction sector in Ethiopia?
Abera: We can see from all the infrastructure that has been done in the last 20 years how well it has been doing.
Capital: How is your association involved in boosting the capacity of your members?
Abera: Out of the 6,000 contractors half of them are in our association. We are doing a lot of training and workshops that help many people develop their skills.
Capital: How does your association differ from the grade one contractors association?
Abera: There is no big difference as we have grade one contractors in our association.
Capital: What do you think about the new regulations for obtaining a licence?
Abera: The criteria for getting a construction contractor’s licence has been revised and the requirements have been reduced. The equipment needs to be of a certain standard as long as people have the money to buy the equipment they can obtain the licence.
Capital: Do you think local contractors are doing quality work?
Abera: In construction there are three stakeholders; the client, the consultant and the contactors. The designer usually designs with the best materials, and strength and so on, the client wants to have the building built with minimum cost and the contractors want the maximum profit. However, this will lead to some poor quality work. In the industry there are certain loops or weaknesses but they are improving their capacity of implementation because the quality starts from the material they use from the input materials, the quality of the materials then the machines then the supervision then the attitude so it is the contribution of different parts to the construction industry that brings, at the end of the day the quality. The quality of the material, the quality of the products or the quality of the building or the quality of the structure brings the question so when we say low cost I don’t accept low cost as such because structures should exist for years and when we make low cost we don’t mean the strength is low but the cost that we incur to build structures should be minimized. For example we have to reduce overhead costs.
Capital: What is the status of Ethiopia construction sector compared to the global level?
Abera: The construction sector, in one form or another, has been in existence as long as human beings. Since then, it has continuously changed and developed alongside with people’s attitudes and the growth of economies.
So when we talk about construction or civil engineering or anything related to the two, we are talking about the basis of major changes on the planet, because apart from mountains and rivers and so on, construction has changed the structure of the earth.
When we look at the development of the construction sector globally, we see that it is booming. In Ethiopia, that is also the case; there are foreign and domestic contractors working in the country. When foreign contractors come, they bring with them the opportunity of technology transfer. The government encourages and facilitates joint ventures between local and foreign contractors so that in the process there will be an opportunity to learn about new technologies and new skills. Local contractors will be able to build their capacity and will have the ability to participate in different projects such as road , dam and railway construction.
Currently there are a lot of mega projects in Ethiopia like the railway construction project where foreign contractors are leading. Those kinds of projects are bound to be transferred to local contractors in due time as their capacity and technological advancement develops.
Capital: What are the major challenges facing the construction sector?
Abera: There are different challenges facing the sector in Ethiopia, this includes completing projects on time.
There are usually two different scenarios when doing a construction project. One is that when clients give contractors a specific time frame of completion, they usually have a problem delivering on time.
The other one is, when contractors are given the freedom of time with out a specific deadline, they fail to set up a proper schedule design by themselves.
Other challenges also are that, although contractors might have a smart scheduling system, they may not have the needed capacity, in financial sense that is. Some of them might not have cash on hand as most of the cash might be tied up in equipment. When this happens they will have a problem with cash flow for the next step of the project.
And the third one is the implementation by it self contract administration, tracing schedule and also making the schedule up to date. In general, modern construction technology, modern construction management, financial capacity and fixed time scheduling play a huge role in getting a quality job done on time.