Conference Held in Kampala, Uganda From 13 Th May 2019 To 14 Th May 2019.

Guest of Honour:

The President of the Republic of Uganda  represented by the Vice President of Uganda Hon. Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi

The Minister of Works and Transport Uganda (Proposed), Hon. Monica Azuba Ntege

Executive Committee member of International Federation of Consulting Engineers(FIDIC), Madame Aisha Nadar

Managing Director of FIDIC, Dr. Nelson Ogunshakin OBE

UACE Chairperson, Eng. Betty Nakamya

Our Anchor Speaker, Prof. Patrick Lumumba

Members of the Executive Committee of GAMA

Members of Member Associations of GAMA

 

Distinguished delegates, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to welcome you all to the 2019 FIDIC-GAMA Conference being held here in this beautiful city of Kampala, Uganda.

 

To start with let me give a little background on GAMA. GAMA stands for Group of African Member Associations. It is a regional grouping that is affiliated to FIDIC ((International Federation of Consulting Engineers). It represents the consulting engineer’s industry in Africa. The objectives of GAMA can be summarized as follows: –

 

Cooperation and assistance between member associations

Encouragement of meaningful and sustainable technology transfer and capacity building

Promotion and enhancement of the status of the member associations in Africa

Promotion of good relations of understanding between member associations, clients and the public amongst others.

 

GAMA currently comprises of 16 member associations (MAs) and has been in existence since 1993. The close collaboration with FIDIC has helped in promoting a strong drive towards world class delivery of services. It has also kept members appraised of the latest standards, best practices as well as alignment to the United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals.

 

I want to thank all the current members of MAs for keeping the voice of the consulting engineer alive in their respective countries. While the level of decibels of the voices of consulting engineers may vary from country to country, I believe the aim and spirit the same.

I note that the modern day consulting engineer is confronted with many challenges and also many opportunities.  Coming to this conference confirms the challenges are in many instances similar only different in magnitude. Coming to this conference further confirms Africa is the continent for the consulting engineer given the great demand for infrastructure development all aimed at uplifting the lives of the people of Africa.

 

The theme for this year’s conference is “The Role of Consulting Engineer in driving growth in African Economies”.

 

The Choice of this theme highlights the very important role consulting engineer’s play in driving Africa’s infrastructure development agenda. Infrastructure development has a tremendous impact on the social economic development of a country. Infrastructure opens up trade be opening trading routing, trading facilities and infrastructure, developing manufacturing and production facilities. It supports delivery of social services all geared towards uplifting the lives of the people. It enhances collaboration, opens up frontiers, allows free movement of people and greatly contributes to enhancement of awareness among other positive attributes. Africa has proved herself as willing recipient and user of technology. She however need to innovate more and develop technologies that work best for her. The rapidly expanding middle class is a clear example of the advances in Africa. This middle class continues to play a big role as catalysts of development through increased consumption of goods and services.

 

Africa remains a key focus for global players given the infrastructure deficit. Amongst the challenges that Africa faces in its development agenda are: –

 

Funding of projects

Lack of adequate local capacity

Weak and sometimes misaligned legal and regulatory framework,

Unclear and sometimes misaligned planning of development agenda

Cases of political instability

Other internal challenges such as adverse weather, poverty e.tc

 

Despite of the challenges, Africa has become an attractive destination for investors, lenders, engineers, professionals etc. all looking for opportunities in infrastructure development.

The role played by the Africa’s consulting engineers whilst important is still at a level that is below expectation. In many African countries the African consulting engineer has in many instances found himself or herself playing in the smaller league and sometimes watching on the benches. The Africa’s Consulting Engineer appears at times to be comfortable, executing the smaller roles in their respective country infrastructure development agenda. The books of history are likely to judge that the African infrastructure growth of this century was largely carried out by others.  It is likely that the generations to come will ask why the Africa’s consulting engineer did not play a bigger role in infrastructure development. I beseech each and every colleague to take positive steps to help change that potential history.

 

Africa’s infrastructure agenda is well articulated in the Africa’s agenda 2063. Our work is to understand and fully support the aspirations contained therein to make Africa the best continent by the end of this century.   It requires all of us to embrace patriotic and national values and even go further and inculcate them in our children.

We must execute our work with a deep sense of commitment serving the greater good of the people living in Africa. We as engineers must fully understand how privileged we are to have gone through school and obtained good engineering education and even more, to have gained engineering experience and lived in this time. We must always engage the many stakeholders e.g. government, lenders, developers, investors etc. to understand the benefit our projects bring to people of Africa. We must always understand how important our work is in uplifting the lives of the people of Africa. We must understand that we are fully accountable for what we do. We must do what we do the best way we can, understanding it to be a calling. We must refrain from doing our work solely for the money. We must ensure that the people of Africa get maximum value for money put in the projects we execute. We must embrace the spirit of sharing knowledge, experience, culminating in beneficial business relationships. We must promote regional corporation in the execution of infrastructure development. We must be agile, willing to learn, willing to listen, willing to be challenged and at the end of it all willing to live this world a better place than we found it.

 

Brothers and sisters we must be cognizant of the growing number of youth who yearn for opportunities and who are increasingly more receptive to new ideas including disruptive technologies. We must continue to work with governments and other stakeholders to increase the level of participation of the young professional engineers in infrastructure development so that they are better prepared to meet challenges of today and tomorrow. The emerging disruptive technologies demand a paradigm shift in the way solutions are crafted and sustained. The YPs are well placed to take a leading role in this space.  We will also aim at restoring the dignity of the profession and in so doing enhance its attractiveness to our children and generations to come.

 

Africa consulting engineers need to take an active role in shaping policies pertaining to infrastructure development in Africa. They should further play a key role in defining/shaping contracting and execution strategies that ensure maximum local participation as well as provision for cost effective, optimal home grown solutions.

 

Turning to stakeholders and partners we have the following to say:

To our governments: The consulting engineers is always willing and ready to support governments in crafting and executing projects that have the most impact. Our years of experience should not go to waste. Those years will ensure better and longer lasting solutions. We thank you for opportunities in execution of projects but we seek to be given more opportunities and in so doing help in creating employment and wealth for the continent. In order to ensure survival and growth of local consulting engineering firms, we seek government’s support in timely payments for works done, transparent procurement processes among others. We also wish to confirm our desire to partner with governments to fight the dreadful vice of corruption. Corruption continues to drain the much need resources and in so doing reduce the positive impacts expected from infrastructure development among other governmental initiatives. It has been estimated that some African countries lose as much as 30% of their national budget to this vice. Further, a greater share of what is lost is said to end up in outside countries. The vice must be fought both on the demand and supply sides. Further it must be fought by both the Public and Private sectors. It is a well-known fact that in almost all acts of corruption, there is a professional involved. The construction industry has been plague by corruption driven the huge budgets available, the many opportunities and schemes that can be and are used to facilitate corruption, the potential ease of cover of corrupt acts in documentation/processes that an ordinary person may not comprehend, and finally sheer greed. On our side we continue to work with FIDIC in educating members on the tools available to fight graft. The tools include integrity management systems, codes of conduct, training among others. We are ready to share these tools and collaborate with governments to enhance integrity within the public sector which represents the biggest player on the supply side. We further are available to assist in any way in the development and enhancement of legal and regulatory frameworks aimed at fighting the vice.

 

To the funding agencies we extend our thanks for your very important role you play of funding many projects. We seek stronger and more vibrant relations that will help enhance local participation as well promote ethical professional behavior. We seek your assistance in capacity building that will go towards ensuring Africa has capacity for use not only in Africa but also capacity that can effectively compete at a global arena. We seek your assistance in accessing competitive capital to help us run and expand our firms. This last plea is also directed to Bankers.

 

To the universities we seek collaboration in carrying out research to promote home grown cost effective solutions that will speed up delivery of projects as well enhance the use of local materials and local technologies. We seek collaboration in shaping the young student engineers by offering meaningful internships and practical training.

 

To the regulators, we seek collaboration in setting up necessary legislation where absent and where legislation is present, we offer to assist you in enforcing legislation so as to ensure ethical behavior as well as fair competition.

 

To fellow Professionals like Lawyers, Quantity Surveyors etc., we seek your collaboration in ensuring ethical and world class delivery of cost effective solutions that have maximum impact on our countries. Far too often we sit aside and not fully recognize the role some of colleagues play in abetting corruption. We seem to think that it is not our problem. Sadly, it is our problem and it affects us one way or the other. We can no longer turn a blind eye. We have put in place meaningful measures to fight the vice including naming and shaming those who do. We must promote the including of integrity managements systems in our processes etc.

To the Insurers, we seek collaboration in prudent risk assessment and risk mitigation that will ensure project costs remain competitive and that incidents are reduced and better still eliminated to ensure maximum benefits to the users.

 

To the Private sector investors and stakeholders, we shall continue to strive to ensure that we become the engineer of choice in conceptualization and delivery of projects that fully meet your requirements. In doing so we will have contributed in ensuring your projects meet your rate of return among other critical success factors. We fully recognize the private sector is the engine of a country’s economy.

 

To the Contractors, we seek your collaboration in ensuring growth in world class delivery of projects, in adhering to professional and ethical behavior, in ensuring that projects that we are involved in, meet all the requirements. As partners in execution of projects, we seek your collaboration in growing trust from investors, Governments, private sector. Trust that will promote enhancement of local content. Trust that will see us execute large and complex projects to satisfaction.

To the construction equipment and materials suppliers: We shall continue to share feedback all aimed at you coming up with better and more cost effective solutions.

 

Lastly On behalf of GAMA Exco, let me once again welcome all the participants to the 2019 GAMA conference. We look forward to vibrant participation, effective networking and fun. We encourage participants to also take advantage of the tourist attraction in Uganda which includes the famous source of River Nile on Lake Victoria.

 

Fellow participants and guests, on behalf of GAMA EXCO and GAMA members, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Uganda Association of Consulting Engineers for the tremendous work that have done in organizing this conference.

 

Thank you all and God bless Africa.

 

Eng. James N. Mwangi,

FIDIC – GAMA Chairman

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