YEARN TO BUILD

Zambia 2014 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eng. Charles Mushota, Executive Director of the National Council for Construction (NCC), on the country's growth, effects in the sector, and foreign contributors.

Eng. Charles Mushota
BIOGRAPHY
Charles Mushota attended the University of Zambia to study Engineering, before receiving his Master’s in Infrastructure Planning from the University of Stuttgart. He is a capable and enthusiastic Civil Engineer well vested with knowledge in project preparation, project implementation and management, and project monitoring and evaluation including prior and post reviews of all procurement and project documents for projects funded by both the Zambian government and its cooperating partners including World Bank, European Commission, DANIDA, Africa Development Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa, and KfW. He took up his current position at the National Council for Construction (NCC) in January 2014.

What does the construction industry contribute to the country's rapid growth rate?

The construction sector has been growing at a rate of about 17.5% on average for the past few years. That clearly shows you that it is a major contribution to the economy if the growth of the construction sector is about 17.5% on average; in 2013 it was in the range of 23%. That translates to about a 1.5%-1.6% contribution to the real GDP of the overall economy. When you talk about the construction sector, you are looking at roads, commercial and housing development, and also construction that is related to mining activity. In the end, you see gigantic growth in the sector.

How are the new mines that are starting to be operated contributing to the industry sector in Zambia?

When you look at what is going on as the mining sector increases its activities, this translates more into construction activity. For example, when you look at the opening of the Kalumbila mine in North Western Province, it is a completely new establishment in terms of the mine itself and the support infrastructure, including housing to support the mining activities, water, sanitation, and the development of roads in that area. The trend that we have seen in the past few years in terms of the construction sector will continue for the next few years to come. Zambia is a developing country, and many areas are just being opened up and developed. We see that this trend will continue. We may even hit growth of 28% over the next three to four years.

Solwezi is one of Africa's boom towns. What opportunities are there for foreign contractors?

When you look at Solwezi and the way it was planned, it was a small town and it was not expected that there would be mining activities. With the coming of the mining activities, we plan to construct over 600 housing units. That is just Phase I. Of course, Solwezi is the place to be because it is not only housing, but shopping malls and the airport, which needs to be upgraded so that it can assist mining activities. There is a lot of potential in Solwezi.

How is the National Council for Construction (NCC) fostering growth in the construction industry in Zambia?

In Zambia, Act No. 13 of 2003 empowers the NCC to register all companies that are participating in the Zambian construction sector. The Act mandates that we should develop the construction industry, not just by rating them, but also by providing training to the contractors and making sure that all the necessary skills are imparted on local contractors. For foreign contractors, we encourage them to come and work with us here, but the main emphasis is that the foreign contractors should work with local contractors so that there is knowledge and skills transfer. Yes, foreign contractors will come when there is a boom, but when construction slows down, the foreign contractors may leave the country. We will still need contractors to maintain the infrastructure, the roads, water systems, the mining facilities, and the buildings. We always encourage foreign contractors to come to the country, especially those with innovations in various construction materials and technics. Zambia has a lot of construction materials that can be developed not just for local use, but probably even for export purposes.

How many companies do you have registered at the NCC?

We have slightly over 4,000 contractors registered with the NCC, and over 95% of these are Zambian contractors. Most Zambian companies are still small, and can only take on jobs up to around $1.5 million in value. Most of the high-value jobs, in excess of say $2 million-$3 million, are done by only a few companies, and the majority of these are foreign companies.