In recent years Tanzania has experienced a boom in the construction industry as the country embarked on the road to market-oriented economy.
This week our Staff Reporter interviewed Tanzania Construction Industry Awards (TCIA) chairman of the Board of Directors Josephat Nakapape on the achievements and challenges his association faces as it prepares to introduce the Excellence in Construction Awards this November.
QUESTION: Recently, you introduced Tanzania Construction Industry Awards, what does that mean to the contractors?
ANSWER: Tanzania Construction Industry Awards (TCIA) is an annual event introduced to acknowledge, recognise and reward outstanding completed projects in the construction industry. This year’s awards event is themed 2012 Excellence in Construction Awards. The awards will be given to new construction and renovation projects in eight categories depending on the type and size of the project.
All projects submitted for nominations will be considered equally and judged on the same criteria by an independent panel of industrial experts. The evaluation results will be audited by a quality assurance consultant. TCIA will honour award winning projects by presenting them with special trophies and certificates of merit according to the projects placement in the competition.
Contractors should take the Tanzania Construction Industry Awards as an opportunity to share their fine works not only to the architecture, engineering and construction community but also to the public at large. There are many lessons that could be learned should the contractors come together to share their contribution to the industry, network and expose their innovations and creativities.
The awards are intended to expose contractors’ abilities to perform work to standards and hence open more opportunities for new works and expand their client base. In other words they can include prestigious awards given by TCIA as one of their effective marketing tool.
For instance, contractors who look for opportunities to partner with others will have their due diligence shortened since the best in the industry will be exposed by these awards. Awards will also increase morale among team members not only be recognizing their projects’ contribution to industrial excellence but also exposing their talents, hard work, and creativities.
Q: The Contractors Registration Board (CRB) and the National Construction Council (NCC) have not been able to introduce recognition awards in the construction sector, why has TCIA come up with this idea?
A: CRB is a government institution which oversees the development and regulation of all contractors in the country. By law (which enacted CRB), the board is allowed to provide awards of certain kinds to the contractors, and recently they have been doing so to the contractors.
The National Construction Council (NCC) is also a government institution which ensures construction policies are followed in the country. Although not well perceived by the community, NCC is oversees regulating bodies like CRB, Engineers Registration Board (ERB) and Architects and Quantity Surveyors Registration Board (AQRB). We believe the limitation of expanding to projects awards such as the ones TCIA is introducing is because of their desire to remain fair in regulating or implementing government policies according to the law.
TCIA is an ambitious idea that came from years of researching the construction industry locally and elsewhere in the world. Through our research, we found the idea of awarding projects that contributed to excellence dated back to early 1990s when one local industrial expert proposed the idea but it was not well received by the community simply because its implementation was thought to be very complex and the industry was not ready for such awards during that time.
After a closer examination of similar awards in Britain, Asia, and North America, we found that no government regulatory body offers such awards in those countries.
In addition, some of our promoters of TCIA have reached to the organizers of similar awards elsewhere or have participated in those awards in some capacities. As such, we felt we are ready to carry the idea forward in Tanzania as a non-governmental organization like other organizations elsewhere in the world.
As you go through the TCIA awards you will find that the evaluation process is designed to accommodate nature and complexity of project execution. For instance, we have a panel of independent judges who are formed by a diversified group of industrial experts, we have an auditing company that will ensure the score-based evaluation process is fair and there are no fouls. In addition, the evaluation criteria are published and available to any contractors who are ready to nominate their projects.
Q: Most construction tenders are awarded to foreign companies due to their efficiency and quality of work. How will the TCIA awards motivate local contractors to improve the quality of their work?
A: Statistics show there are nearly 9,000 registered contractors in the country. Foreign companies account for just less than five percent of the registered contractors and yet dominate nearly two-thirds of the market value. This is the statistics which many people do not want to hear although it is the reality. There are many factors which contribute to awarding projects to foreign contractors; efficiency and quality of work being among them.
What we can attest to is the fact that there a number of highly qualified local contractors who can undertake similar projects with the same or higher standards than foreign contractors. What these local contractors are missing is the exposure to the public (especially the client base) and this is what TCIA seeks to uncover. For instance, it is customary for the public to recognize the prime contractor (foreign, in this case) of the project without knowing that there are many sub-contractors in the project who are local companies and that they perform equally well.
Q: The construction industry has been growing very fast in recent years, what has led to this fast growth and does it contribute that much to the national economy?
A: It is no doubt in recent years we have seen significant growth in the industry, thanks to government efforts of rebuilding our aging infrastructure system. In addition, the growth has in part contributed by strides to the development the country has made in the mining industry which like many tertiary industries depends heavily on civil construction. As of last year, construction alone contributed more than 11 percent to the country’s GDP, a turnover of 2.7trn (USD 1.9bn), give or take.
When combined with other tertiary industries, its contribution rose to nearly 25 percent of the GDP. That said, the country needs this growth to be sustained and any efforts that promote higher performance standards to this industry are increasingly needed now than ever. TCIA’s mission aligns perfectly with the current and future needs of this industry for the socio-economic development of our country.
Q: What are some of the major achievements that have been attained by your organization so far?
A: There are some achievements that our organization has achieved so far although the major one yet to be seen comes this November, the 2012 Excellence in Construction Awards.
As I said before, this idea was not genuine so our achievements include regrouping ourselves, bringing it (idea) to maturity and starting the process of awarding projects that demonstrate excellence in the architecture, engineering and construction community.
Registering the organization under current Tanzania laws and volunteering our time and resources to promote TCIA mission are notable achievements so far. We have met a number of stakeholders who have embraced our idea and the move towards recognizing outstanding construction projects.
Q: Any challenges?
A: As in any new project, we are facing a lot of challenges: The major challenge is to gain confidence of the stakeholders that the individuals working together to promote TCIA are determined and ready to give the awards. Some people still think that the industry is not ready or may be the perception that they are not ready for the change.
What we can say is that to us, these challenges are not genuine —our research reveals that some of the organizations which promote similar awards elsewhere in the world had similar challenges.
So we’re overcoming these challenges by treating them as opportunities. We are conducting very aggressive, yet effective public outreach campaigns that will educate the stakeholders and the public at large on the importance of these awards to the socio-economic development of our country and the Great Lakes region.
Q: We gather that some foreign construction companies receive subsidies from their governments, what is the position here?
A: Competition with foreign construction companies is a hurdle that local contractors should overcome. To a large extent, local contractors registered as Class 1, 2 or 3 are well under-represented. You have mentioned the subsidies that some foreign companies may be getting from their home governments and our local contractors do not have such a privilege.
In addition, foreign companies have the ability to obtain low interest loans from their financial institutions while our banking industry offers higher interest rates to local companies. Local contractors have found themselves in a situation where they can’t compete with the foreign companies, especially Chinese contractors who most of the time submit low price tenders.
Q: What do you expect to achieve in organizing the 2012 excellence construction awards to take place in November?
A: The most important thing we shall achieve will be the inauguration of the 2012 excellence in construction awards. As we have seen earlier, this idea came mind almost two decades ago and was never brought to fruition until now.
Thus, the inauguration of TCIA will positively impact the local construction industry because the industry and its stakeholders will be given a platform to look back at their project-based contributions, to assess their impact on improving the industry's image and to focus on overall improvement in performance standards.
Most importantly, 2012 Excellence in Construction Awards will not only recognize successful awardees, but also provide challenges and set forth benchmark standards for their peers.
Publicly acknowledging the awardees’ excellence in performance provides a platform for higher industry standards and enhances our local economy. By doing so, our major contribution will be to ensure sustainability of the construction industry and hence our achievement as citizens of this great country.