To quote a very clever man, Einstein:
- Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.
- We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Civilution is a call to do things differently.
We have an urgent and pressing need to provide services and infrastructure. We have a growing skills and capacity shortage in delivering services and infrastructure. Our current model of project delivery is cumbersome, slow, unpredictable, has too many interfaces and is all too often open to challenge and even corruption.
We need to embrace new delivery models, unsolicited bids, design/build, EPC/LSTK, life-cycle costing, partnering, framework agreements, guaranteed maximum price, and move away from the traditional tender system. The chosen delivery model will depend on the nature of the project and the level of scope definition – one size cannot fit all.
Government cannot finance the proposed infrastructure programme on its own. We are going to need significant amounts of external investment. External investment goes where it can obtain the best return. Africa has become an attractive destination for foreign investment and we are competing with the rest of the continent. If lenders know that there is certainty of project outcome in terms of time, cost and quality, and that their return on investment is secure, the funds will flow.
It is estimated that a project takes as long in incubation, i.e. from conception to contract award (the planning phase) as it does to build it (the construction phase). It is during the planning phase that the biggest wins are made at the least cost. Yet, the contractor traditionally only gets involved for the first time during the construction phase.
By this time someone has already developed a scope of work, a budget (normally based on historical figures), drawings reflecting a chosen construction methodology and a construction programme. These are then handed to the contractor as a fait accompli.
Although not the only critical factor in successful project delivery, early contractor involvement can be a significant contributor. If the contractor is involved in the planning cycle, budget, construction methodology and programming, it can only improve the desired outcome – a project delivered on time, to the correct quality and within budget.
We need to break the feast-or-famine cycle once and for all. A sustained pipeline of projects will allow the industry (and here I mean both engineers and contractors) to plan ahead long-term and develop detailed training programmes, recruitment, succession planning, enterprise development and any other resources required to provide certainty of outcome. We need to know and be involved in the what, when and how. Both the public and the private sector need to collaborate in determining the project pipeline. Sustainability is paramount.
Roles and strengths need to be clearly defined and understood by all participants – government, lenders, state-owned enterprises, developers, professionals and contractors. One can only wear and think with one hat.
Above all we must realise that we need one another; one party cannot perform without the other. We must act as a unified team with one single common goal – a better and more prosperous country for all.