Developing Kenya’s infrastructure has become a never-ending task that seems to rest on the hands of politicians and good-will ambassadors like the World Bank. Despite billions of dollars in funding and the ever-growing need to create employment, it’s safe to say that whoever is responsible for pushing development projects through has fallen short of everyone’s expectations.
As a result, there is an ongoing debate about the repercussions of outsourcing local development projects to international firms. Some say that giving away local assignments is like giving away jobs that millions of Kenyans desperately need. Others argue that outsourcing is not about creating employment. This particular group of people says that work is not simply done for the sake of giving people jobs. They assert that projects involving building and construction need a professional touch.
Last year, the government was actually looking for contractors to build and design three water gateways that would be used to expand the Lamu Port. The USD 5.3 billion (KES 460.3 billion) project was open to local firms but delays may see it fall into the hands of foreign contractors.
But what happens to the country’s own team of professional architects and engineers? What’s the point of lumping them in with those who just take on projects and intentionally lower their standards in order to line their pockets with even more money?
As much as some contractors would like to be recognized for their professional integrity, the fact remains that local talent has been tainted by those who fail to ensure a certain level of quality in the work they do.
Take, for instance, the short stretch of tarmac next to Yaya Center, connecting Ngong Road to Hurlingham. Construction has been going on for almost a year now and some people would agree that the team has been doing a shoddy job (in terms of progress).
You can blame it on the managers, the contractors, corruption, a poor work ethic or even lazy workers. Whatever the case, their progress has been slow.
Anyone will half a mind will tell you that extended contracts cost more money than was initially needed to complete a project. Greedy contractors are therefore likely to capitalize on such opportunities by wasting time.
For a construction worker, time is money and an extension means that they can continue to cash in their by-monthly cheques.
For pedestrians using that stretch, this has become a major inconvenience. The walkway is clustered with mud and puddles of water. There is a rectangular ditch that fills with water every time it rains. The workers barely drain it in time to fill the ditch. And by the time it is empty, the rains are at it again.
Whoever these contractors are, they seriously need a wake-up call. If the Thika Super Highway can achieve a significant amount of progress in such a short span of time, what the hell are these people doing? Imagine if they were the ones commissioned to build the KES 31 billion super highway. All that money would have gone to waste!
There must be a host of other local contractors who can wrap this up at least within the next two weeks. What pedestrians and motorists need is a construction company which will work fast and effectively. It’s not about how many jobs the firm can create. It’s all about the quality of service that they can provide.
If none of the locally-available companies are up to the task, then why not sack the current firm and choose the lesser of two evils? Outsourcing a development project to an internationally-renowned team from a country like China may not be such a bad idea. As much as it is important to “promote local talent”, a shoddy job is nothing to smile about.
That said, why not let the people who built the world’s greatest wall build roads for the city with the continent’s fastest growing real estate development? (Nairobi has recorded a 21.8% growth in its high end property market ranking it 3rd in the world and 1st in Africa according to a survey on prime global cities by Knight Frank).