When they were appointed into office exactly 178 days ago the Architects Association of Botswana (AAB) Executive Committee members vowed to change the fortunes of their members.AAB is a body representing Architects in Botswana with the core mandate of promoting architecture, promoting architectural education, generating interest and assisting within the government realm for the profession, whilst also shaping the country’s economy through the architectural infrastructure of the country.
President of the Association, Gorata Kgafela said on Monday that it has been 10 years since members of the Association have been receiving the full brunt of the decline in construction, and as a result there is ‘very little’ work available for their members. Though the situation is not unique to Botswana, Kgafela together with her fellow Executive Committee members are convinced that numerous factors further contribute to their current challenges.
She said the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development is aware of some challenges that they have voiced in the past. For example, they have been made to compete with the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC), which uses in-house expertise to build their houses, when in fact, government should be availing work to empower citizen companies.
“This means that expertise of AAB is not fully exploited,” Kgafela said, adding that the engagement of their members is not just limited to financial gain, but is also an opportunity for young professionals to contribute to meaningful projects, something that would enhance their knowledge and experience.
Kgafela also decries the use of international architects in local projects that local architects are capable of implementing. “Government needs to introspect and determine whether it is the right thing to do to continue to give work to foreign architects. Our narrative is written by foreign architects and our buildings and structures say nothing about us,” she said.
One of AAB’s intentions is to uphold the profession’s ethics and code of conduct and have zero tolerance for anyone who contravenes these. Only registered professionals are expected to carry out work, according to the Architecture Regulatory Council (ARC). This goes a long way in protecting the unsuspecting public from unscrupulous dealers and promotes competence.
AAB, which has 132 members currently, is working closely with the ARC to root out any unethical behaviour. Kgafela said it is worrisome that there are numerous cases of fraud in the industry that happen under the watchful eye of those who need to safeguard right procedures and processes of delivery. For example, the AAB has encountered instances where drawings are approved at the council without proof of the actual person who produced them.
Kgafela and her team are also concerned about lack of continuous professional development in the industry. They have observed that there is a knowledge gap between private sector professionals and public sector professionals. This, not only undermines the profession, but also creates bureaucracy within public offices.
“Government needs to emphasise more on enhancing the knowledge base and experience of officers so that they are equipped for what they need to do.” The other challenge that the AAB is currently facing is the procurement of architectural services and fees.
Kgafela challenged the status quo, where architects are expected to design upfront and compete on fees. She said this is not best international practice.
“Gone are the days when professionals are expected to do work for free,” she said. To deal with the challenges, Kgafela told the media that they have come up with business enabling solutions that are expected to build an environment conducive for business for their members.
Among the solutions, the ABB will now take an active role in the Project Allocation Committee, which will help in ensuring that members access projects. “We are hopeful that though work was low in the past, this will facilitate direct allocations,” Kgafela said.
The ABB, whose membership comprises of Architects, Architects Technologists and Students is also advocating for the registration of member firms in the Association in addition to individual registrations. Member firm registrations will enable them to have representative in bodies like Business Botswana. ABB is currently engaging a local commercial bank on future partnerships and collaborations to address risks in property funding.