Local contractors have vowed to take on international firms to reclaim their position as far as winning government tenders is concerned. Presently, most of the contracts from government and big private sector players are taken by established global companies, which are favoured by job owners because of their financial muscle and expertise.
However, this could soon end after the Engineers of Rwanda Institute (IER) and local service providers stepped up their game, especially in terms of skills development, putting them in position to compete toe-to-toe with big global contractors.
Eng. Fred Rwihunda, the president of the Engineers Institute of Rwanda (IER), said local engineers, especially those registered with the institute, have what it takes to undertake big projects if given an opportunity.
Rwihunda made the remarks at the annual engineers’ conference in Kigali recently. The institute has over 215 registered members of different engineering disciplines.
“The situation as it is now is impressive… If local contractors and engineers work and support each other, soon there will no longer be need for the country to rely on foreign firms which even take small construction projects.
“The challenge is now on us, the government and private sector to have confidence in local contractors and give them jobs,” he said.
Rwihunda said this will boost the financial capacity of Rwandan contractors, develop their confidence and expertise, as well as help them grow.
“Though we still need the services of foreign contractors, the government should support local companies that meet requirements.
“It should also ensure that foreign firms that get public tenders employ and train Rwandans to fill the skills gap the country still faces,” he said.
He noted that modern skills transfer from developed nations play a big role in bridging gaps that exist, especially in the sector, generally.
He said there was still a challenge of foreign service providers coming in with their own engineers, and even unqualified manpower. He said this put local firms and professionals at double loss since they cannot even learn from global experiences and good practices that foreign contractors could expose them too if they hired them.
Eng. Antoine Kanobana, a member of the institute of engineers, said there is still need to lobby government to reserve some jobs for local contractors. “Our capacity is developing at a high rate and we are ready to compete and win government tenders,” he said.
Local engineers and contractors generally have for long been calling for affirmative action, where the government could reserve some types of jobs for them as opposed to open bidding that attracts all interested bidders.
But local firms are mostly favoured for small projects as many lack capital and expertise to take on huge projects.
Ambassador James Kimonyo lauded the institute for containing the problem of quack engineers who were putting the profession in disrupt and endangering people’s lives.
Kimonyo urged engineers to always ensure quality, safety and sustainability of any projects they undertake, saying that is the best way to win the confidence of job owners.
Meanwhile, the Rwanda Institute of Engineers will host the East Africa Engineers Federation assembly in July 2014. The conference will bring together professional engineers from eight countries in the Greater East African region, Rwihunda said.
He noted that the assembly presents more opportunities to Rwanda engineers, especially those working abroad.