In The Construction Sector, We Are Stuck in The Past – Opinion

The construction sector is not different from any other industry. Evolve or become obsolete. Stakeholders should adopt the advancements made without excuses.

The construction sector in Kenya

Recently, I was a guest speaker at a forum where we were examining the future of the construction industry in East Africa, with a focus on digital transformation.

Indeed, we are all sanguine, or should I say majority, about the growth prospects of our regional and continental construction industry. But there is a problem; a hurdle that lest we overcome the blossoming, budding prospects will just be that – prospects.

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Our construction industry must pronto adopt digital transformation. Let me break it to you; the construction industry is next to last adopter of digital transformation, only better than the hunting industry. Yes, hunting.

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How absurd for an industry that is central for any country’s economic growth. Could there be a correlation between this and the struggling global south Country’s economies? Maybe. Let’s leave that discussion for another day.

Nature is merciful, no doubt, and it often does not try her children, man or beast, beyond their compass. Only I believe there is a caveat to this when it comes to the construction industry; the world has not been kind enough to us.

While we are stuck to our obsolete past, it has perpetually thrown at us 21st century complex built environment challenges.

And unfortunately we incessantly respond to this sermon with medieval tools. Doesn’t it bother you when you see every other day our construction road workers digging tarmac with a mattock to repair potholes?

The construction sector in Kenya

Doesn’t it annoy you two decades into the 21st Century?

Hear me out; this is not the way to confront our modern construction challenges and I rejoice that it cannot be the way.

Our construction sector can do better – it must do better – if we are to realize its meaningful impact on our economy. Where do we even begin?

We will not, and cannot, achieve construction industry digital transformation while our higher learning institutions continue to train graduates with outdated methods and tools.

Government and the construction industry at large cannot continue to play digital catch up through constant training of construction professional once they are out of institutions. When does it stop? Indelible digital transformation must start at the higher institutions.

First, we must break the old order; the monotonous bureaucratic unparalleled thinking that has shackled university curriculum change procedures.

It is nearly impossible to amend even a comma in the curriculums. It take years, at minimum two to three years if you are lucky.

Many lecturers are still training with the notes they prepared at the beginning of this century. Not even a dot has been added to the notes twenty years down the line. I hear a joke among students that some lecturer’s notes are so old and turning yellow in colour.

The construction sector in Kenya

This is no conjecture, it is the reality of our current University training. Yet, the world in its infinite wisdom is ever evolving and awaits no one, awaits no country. It moves with those who are onboard.

We must make it easy for our University construction training curriculums to quickly respond to the latest technological advances in the industry. Our Construction managers, Architects, Engineers, Planners and Quantity surveyors must, every year, come out of University training equipped with the latest training to combat 21st century construction challenges.

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It should not be an option. It must not be an option. As for the rest of the industry, the professional regulatory bodies and associations must step up trainings. It shouldn’t be just for the CPD points and money but the genuine growth of our sector should be our concern.

If additional training is required of the existing professionals, it’s time to make them mandatory for license renewal. Let us move this industry forward from the medieval mire. Listen; it is not that we somehow have an option on this.

One way or another, in the goodness of time, the construction industry will have to board the digital transformation train. My concern is the current price we are subconsciously, painfully paying. We are just unable to execute projects both public and private within set time, with unconceivable cost variations despite the available technological tools that would reduce these losses if not eliminate.

We are stuck in the past. Sadly.

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Nashon Okowa - Managing Director of Beacon Africa Consultants
Beacon Africa Consultants
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