A 21st century approach to infrastructure: skills transfer, human capacity development and the creation of jobs are all central to developing an infrastructure industry in Africa that is economically and socially sustainable.

Author:Welch, David
Position:Urban Africa
 
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The need to provide jobs is widely acknowledged to be amongst the most acute challenges facing governments across Africa right now. Over the first 10 years of Africa's current economic resurgence, the priority for many governments was to restore and implement emergency improvements to infrastructure with the full knowledge that local capacity was often weak, the ability to arrange financing limited, and the need urgent.

Companies were brought in that offered solutions to these needs; these companies often brought workforces from overseas to complete jobs quickly, and with a low up front cost.

This strategy is increasingly recognised as having run its course. Many of these early projects did deliver, but it has become increasingly apparent that the costs, at every level, have often been far higher than anticipated by many African countries at the time.

Times have changed too. African governments increasingly have the capacity and experience to negotiate better deals, to arrange financing themselves, and the confidence to call in external support to assist in achieving their objectives.

The idea that any one international partner has the monopoly on some kind of 'special' understanding of Africa is over. Governments are now looking globally for reliable, credible partners that will deliver to agreed scope, budget and timescale and attract sustainable financing. Most importantly, growing populations with growing expectations are asking that the fruits of Africa's economic resurgence translate into training and employment opportunities for their people.

Bechtel has been active in Africa for over 60 years, with over 400 projects carried out in 36 countries across the continent delivering every type of engineering and construction project imaginable, whether port facilities in Somalia, pipelines in Tanzania, mines in Zambia, power stations in Algeria, or all of the continent's existing gas liquefaction facilities. Training and lifelong learning is part of our DNA and our business model thrives on employing and developing local labour wherever possible.

Vast project of national transformation

In Gabon we are working with the government to develop the country's national infrastructure by establishing a new large-scale infrastructure agency--l'Agence Nationale de Grands Travaux (ANGT). The agency is responsible for setting the professional and internationally accepted standards required to implement Gabon's National Infrastructure Master Plan.

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