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Address shortage of local expertise in construction

By | September 28th 2011

There have been several complaints in the recent past about the domination of Chinese contractors in Kenya’s construction industry. More often than not, those pushing for the exit of Chinese contractors have used the argument that they are taking away jobs meant for Kenyans.
They say giving large infrastructure projects to the Chinese is perpetuating Kenya’s already pathetic lack of locally grown talent in this area. There is plenty of truth in this argument, but it also has several flaws.

First, fewer students are studying engineering in university due to falling standards in performances in key subjects like mathematics at secondary school level. This has had a direct impact on the number of Kenyans graduating in critical fields related to the construction sector such as architects, surveyors and construction engineers.
Second, a huge chunk of the few highly qualified Kenyans opted to take up jobs outside the country where they are in great demand and are rewarded better. This brain drain has severely decimated the local pool.

Finally, Kenyan contractors have in the recent past preferred to take shortcuts when executing major contracts such as roadworks, which later deteriorated just as quickly well before their lifespan. Chinese firms, on the other hand deliver on time and avoid shortcuts.
For now, few Kenyan firms can whip together the resources available to the Chinese when it comes to construction engineering.
This lack of local expertise capacity must be addressed in the proper manner and not by demonising foreign firms with a proven record of success.

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