Botswana youth contractors have been urged not to take construction business as a moneymaking scheme to venture into, as it is a very competitive environment, which requires dedication.This was emphasised by Minister of Infrastructure Science and Technology, Nonofo Molefhi on Tuesday at the construction youth seminar held at Oasis Motel, Tlokweng.
Molefhi’s call comes amid concerns that Batswana construction companies are not fully committed to deliver projects whenever they are awarded tenders. Minister Molefhi highlighted that his Ministry has had an experience of failed projects by citizens and as well as foreigners and this is a cost to the taxpayer’s money.
Said Molefhi, “there is lack of proper procurement plans and this has an impact on capacity to deliver the work. Poor scheduling of work- you must plan your work so that you do not consume your resources by extending time on the site. We have also realised that the skills employed in these construction companies are not up to standards- they must ensure that they employ the right skills required. Management capacity, financial management and leadership quality- these are key principles to adhere to.”The youth contractors were also urged by the Minister to always familiarise themselves with the laws that govern the industry, as well as understanding the employment and labour laws.
Opportunities for youth contractors
Minister Molefhi revealed that under the 2016/17 budget, about P87million has been set aside for maintenance works, and P14million is set for youth contractors. He also encouraged the youth contractors to look outside Botswana boundaries. “Other countries such as South Sudan are looking for your expertise. I want to escort you to South Sudan. We are waiting for Festus Mogae to return from South Sudan and give feedback on the opportunities available for Botswana- if it is approved then our contractors will have to go. Just recently teachers were sent to Seychelles,” he promised.
The voice of the youth contractors association
Botswana Youth Contractors Association (BYCA) Chairman, Mpho Makgosa indicated that although they appreciate the youth empowerment schemes by the government, they are however not benefiting the youth as expected. “Although good initiatives are in place, there is no affirmative action for the youth. They do not serve the intended purpose due to the current structure they operate. On the other hand, youth contractors have their own shortfalls, for instance, lack of professional and personal experience. This results in projects abandonment due to misuse of funds,” highlights Makgosa. He also noted on the challenges of production of sub-standard projects and also engaging in malpractices of taking part in corruption activities with government officials.
“We can only achieve mindset change through capacity building workshops or platforms and through implementation of the youth empowerment projects,” he concludes.
Advice from the construction gurus
Barulaganyi Gakelebotse, founding partner at NTR Technologies shared his word of encouragement with the youth contractors and how at NTR they managed to survive for the past 19 years in the industry. Gakelebotse, who is also chairman of the Association of Electrical and Mechanical Contractors of Botswana (AEMCB), urged the youth to form businesses in partnerships and that there should always be a spirit of teamwork and patience. “We need to understand that when having a business, you can’t afford stagnation; it has to grow and the growth has to be planned. Always be prepared to handle multiple tenders, and only when you have the capacity and capability. The business processes must always be followed- do not just dictate to the business and make uninformed decisions,” Gakelebotse said.
Another guru who has been in the industry for the past 26 years, Chris Gofhamodimo who started Mhago Construction and now running Mhago Properties- emphasised that construction is not a money making scheme. “This is a cut throat business- you can make P10million today and lose P2million tomorrow. There is no promise of tomorrow today you are rich, tomorrow you are busted, so there is no continuity. There are also no guarantees of work (tenders) in Botswana. You are in the era where construction industry is in a very difficult/hostile environment, there is tough competition.”
Gofhamodimo also indicated that, while at it, the youthful contractors should look at other business ventures to invest in their profits. “Diversify your portfolio so that when things don’t go right you can lean back to something else. I fell back on property development and I do not have to worry about construction tenders. I am currently developing Metlhaetsile Estate in Block 6. Don’t go buy Range Rovers and Landcruisers,” advised Gofhamodimo.