Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Urgency of Expertise for Quality Infrastructure Developments in Africa

Irrespective of the economic slowdown in the developed world, Africa has sustained remarkable economic growth over the past few years. For a mindset which has believed for generations that Africa is completely dependent to the outside world, this growth in the midst of staggering world economy, somehow showcases that the continent is able to manage its own affairs by itself, as it should be, better than ever.

The economic growth achieved so far; however, is mainly either through aggressive public led infrastructure development or oil driven expansion which creates less space for private led long term economic growth. While the exaggerated public led development squeezes innovation and the private investment on the one hand, the oil driven expansion creates room for corruption and extravagance on the other hand, as witnessed across the continent over several years.

Brain drain has been the number one enemy of Africa’s economy for generations and now is the time to change the course for the better. Taking in to account the current level of infrastructure developments taking place throughout the continent, experienced African professionals all over the world should be made part of the development plan to maintain the level of quality and fuel the growth even further. ‘Local’ Professionals in the private sector can also play a big role in addressing the current shortcomings and taking the opportunities ahead as they do have firsthand experience on the ground.

When a state enterprise is established to address some kind of problem for example, there is, most often, a long tradition of appointing someone who used to be in some other state enterprise or so without diligent evaluation of the individuals track record. It will also be worthwhile for the continent if the African governments eye the private sector players and entitle them to similar establishments based on their industry experience and leadership capability with better incentives, mainly to avoid the bottlenecks to the long term private sector led growth and maximize the benefits of infrastructure developments across the continent.

With simple observation, one can soon learn that the monetary value of Projects in Africa is far less than their counterparts anywhere else. While most of the engineering estimates and the construction costs for major infrastructure projects are done by, and the origins of technologies are from the established companies based in the developed world, when it is for Africa, project values are by far less than it could be in Europe or North America. Although there are marginal gains with respect to cheap labor in Africa, if not counter balanced by the transport costs, the convincing reasons for the lower value of projects is mainly due to the possibility of lower level of performance and provision of lower quality products, if not damping scraps. In this regard, the scarcity of testing laboratories for the ever changing technologies and the low level of expertise in Africa are the main underlying drivers for a go ahead to lower prices and ultimately to less quality infrastructure developments.

Sometimes, it is unfortunate to see that projects are awarded to management companies which after taking the lion’s share of the project budget for nothing and transfer them for the real builders with incomparably less price, which ends in compromising the quality, while it is possible to award the projects directly to the builders and maintain the standards. In some instances, projects are defaulted to international competitors while they can be built with local capacity with less overall cost.

An expert who knows what s/he is doing and never does compromise in quality is sought after in the Africa soil right now. After all the Africans’ deserve long term and sustainable services from their infrastructure developments be it road, power, health, education, telecom, water, or anything else!

African Expertise for African Infrastructure Developments! Cheers!

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