Give local engineers a chance to cut their teeth on large govt projects

Wednesday April 24 2019


A building under construction in Kigali. Local engineers believe they are competent to take on certain jobs given to foreigners. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION  

More by this Author

Rwandan engineers and architects are concerned that they have limited access to ongoing lucrative government construction contracts.

The engineers through their association, allege that the government seems to prefer foreign engineers who continue to win its lucrative multimillion dollar contract projects.

The projects include the Kigali Convention Centre completed by Turkish firm Summa, which won another big contract to construct a new stadium in Amahoro. The government also contracted Mota-EngilAfrica for the ongoing Bugesera International Airport.

While contracts are generally awarded through a competitive bidding process, local engineers 

This calls for a deliberate effort by the government to ensure there is a skills and knowledge transfer to improve the competitiveness of local engineers in the long term.

It is important that the government begins to come up with a clear plan for skills transfer in different sectors of the economy such that the current expatriates serve as bridges for the transfer of knowledge.

A collaborative approach when foreign firms are awarded these lucrative government contracts is crucial because frequency of interaction and shared vision facilitate knowledge transfer.

But the biggest issue local engineers have with the government is lack of enforcement of the law.

It is alleged that foreign firms don’t even register locally, which leaves technical and legal loopholes unchecked, because it becomes even hard to bring these foreign companies to book in case of irregularities or accidents since they are not locally registered.

Foreign engineers especially Chinese are also faulted for only employing their countrymen when they get local contracts, some of whom are not even qualified as engineers.

There has also been limited knowledge and skills transfer between foreign and local engineers to local engineers. It is also alleged that the policies used in preselecting foreign engineers have not been updated since 2000, yet a lot has changed on the local scene in regard to skills, experience and engineering competencies.

Rwandan engineering companies have no track record of implementing big projects outside Rwanda, which continues to reduce their chances of getting big contracts.

However, the smallness and lack of exposure of local engineers should not be a basis for the government’s continued omission of local companies from big projects, in retrospect it should play an active role in grooming its local engineering capacity.

Most big engineering companies started small in the home countries and got support from their governments which helped them expand across borders.

The institute of engineers has external partnerships with regional and international engineering organisations and such partnerships can be leveraged to foster external exposure and deepen competencies, but the government’s good will is key.