A CASE FOR THE UGANDA NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BUILDING AND CIVIL ENGINEERING CONTRACTORS (UNABCEC)
Godfrey B. Zaribwende
Construction is an important sector to Uganda’s national economy and contributes greatly to the Gross Domestic Product, (GDP). It has picked up since 1987 after years of stagnation and it is estimated to be one of the biggest employers of skilled and unskilled labor after agriculture. Contractor development leads to increased employment opportunities and infrastructure provision thus contributing to reduction of poverty and overall development. Since 1991 construction work has increased by 38% while Gross Domestic Product in general has increased by 25%. Donor support account for more than 20% of Uganda’s Gross domestic Product per capita. A considerable amount up to 50% of this funding goes to the construction industry.
The Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (UNABCEC), is an organization established to identify, promote and safeguard the interests of building and civil engineering contractors in the Uganda construction industry and related material suppliers. It is also the mouthpiece of the member contractors and suppliers. UNABCEC has been involved in the challenges of the contractor development and this paper shares the experiences of the organization. It is hoped that it shall expose participants to the experienced problems, successes, failures and challenges faced to enable discussion in contributing to the overall contractor development in developing countries.
Key words: Experience, Problems, Successes, Failures and Challenges
There is no clear definition as to just what the construction industry is. Certainly it must include the general and specialist contractors. B But really to understand the industry, one must extend its scope to include consultants, material suppliers and equipment manufacturers, labor organizations and professional bodies, developers add still another dimension as do public and private consumers of construction services. Government regulatory agencies in such areas as safety, health, planning, employment practices and fair trade also play an increasingly important role.
It should be noted that Uganda lacks a clear national policy for the contractor development and sustainability of construction industry. Defined operationally as part of the overall development planning and implementation process, the problem is both of decision making and of society wide approach. At governmental level, as general public level, construction industry is viewed in a non-coherent manner and as something apart from the crucial national and development needs. And yet construction often takes colossal amount in terms of development budget annually.
Construction is considered a sector of the economy that transforms various resources into economic and social infrastructure and facilities. There is hardly any sector that does not have a construction component. It is the engine for growth and its development is an indicator of overall economic development. Therefore, it is one of the crucial sectors that developing countries should focus on.
The Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (UNABCEC), through her members has greatly contributed to the construction works in Uganda. UNABCEC as an institution has been involved in the activities of contractor development and this paper shares the experiences of the organization. It is hoped that it shall expose participants to the experienced problems, successes, failures and challenges faced to enable discussion in contribution to the overall contractor development in developing countries.
The establishment of a body of the kind was done sometime in the 1950s when Uganda’s construction industry was dominated by Asians and other expatriate contractors. There is however no clear record left behind for references. This may be due to the humiliating expulsion of the Asians done by Uganda government under the leadership of Idi Amin in 19’72. Hence, the construction industry in Uganda stagnated. Attempt was made in 1988 to start a similar organization. It did not take off and there is apparently, no proper record that one can make references to.
In 1993, with the help of the Federation of Uganda Employers, (FUE), a steering committee was formed. UNABCEC was established and registered with the registrar of companies on February 25Lh 1993 as a limited company in accordance with company act of Uganda. Since then, UNABCEC has registered some reasonable growth with problems, successes, failures and challenges that are here by shared to all participants. It is a voluntary association of companies and individuals bound by a constitution and directives authorized by the Annual General Meeting (AGM) through the national executive committee of enfranchised members. Daily activities are executed by the secretariat manned by an Administrative Assistant.
To UNABCEC, contractor development leads to the following:
Because of these, UNABCEC has great will and interest in matters of contractor development and does participate with their full potential. Thus hosting of the CIB Task Group 29 construction Industry in Developing countries meeting in Kampala, Uganda is in line with UNABCEC’s aspirations.
The objectives of UNABCEC are:
Membership is Open to:
The Services Offered/Proposed to be offered are:
The benefits joining UNABCEC include:
One of the greatest successes of UNABCEC is just to stay alive. Many organizations are started in Uganda but indications are that not many see their fifth “birthday” alive and kicking. The infant “mortality” rate is high, however other successes include:
a) DFID will put in the risk capital for three months. The support funding is to allow UNABCEC to market and establish itself as an effective trade association and enable it to grow its membership subscription and additional service to a level where it can it support its running costs and
b) Running jointly funded programme with DFID for three years to ensure that UNABCEC will be financially self sustaining thereafter
In its candid role and efforts to promote contractor development, UNABCEC experiences some problems that are here shared. It should be important to distinguish between the problems of UNABCEC as an organization trying to help in contractor development from the various problems faced by individual contractors. These include:
Despite all other successes and problems as elaborated above and some that may not have been mentioned, the greatest failure is probably in establishing UNABCEC in full attributes as we would have loved it. This is especially in taking its rightful position in the development process of Uganda Construction Industry in particularly and the overall national development. The influence on government policy making and implementation is negligible and needs a lot to be done. Integrating the work of the organization with others in the construction industry has been very poor and needs great step of improvement.
One of the greatest challenges for organizations like UNABCEC in developing countries is the very essence and structure of developing countries’ economy. This is complicated by the globalization combined with free market policies that are being adopted by developing countries and the strong influence of donor community through their funding conditionality. Emphasis should also be put in capacity building in a sustainable manner Highlights should also be on the role of construction industry in development, employment and member membership problems. It is also important to note that cost of construction in Uganda is the highest in the region and estimated to be 40% higher than Kenya and poses challenges. With the challenge of construction of classrooms under the Universal Primary Education (UPE), a lot needs to be done on contractor development by government of Uganda.
The Way Forward
To make any head way, all the stakeholders in the construction industry in developing countries must make a deliberate effort to pool resources together; to work together; to be more transparent to our own self and to each other; to lobby government to formulate practical policies to enhance the industry in a sustainable manner and to make the construction industries in various countries the engine of growth of developing countries. We must change our personal work habits and attitudes if we are to be competitive. The work ethics must be correct to enhance accountability and transparency. Integrity, reliability and honesty are important skills.
In conclusion, let me remind participants that construction is not an ordinary business. It is a complex one where engineering skills must be employed alongside management skills and others. The role of construction in developing countries cannot be over emphasized. Subsequently, the role of contractor development to make the industry more efficient and effective in fulfilling its obligation and role to society should be made clear.
The formation and development of an organization to promote contractor development is not an easy task as already seen and requires great commitment and dedication. Our experience is that, it is worthy to organize for common history and common future for both membership good and national development. There are many obstacles along the way and there is every temptation to abandon the struggle. However, it is a noble cause to pursue construction industry development despite all problems that may be faced, that is failures that may be experienced and challenges that we must reckoned with.