Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Construction Machineries' Spare Part, Maintenance Crisis

Eight of the construction machineries out of the 70 at Woha Limat area in Akaki Kality District were not working last week.

There are 6,032 construction machineries in Ethiopia: 5,151 machineries are in Addis Abeba, 332 in Oromia and 302 in Amhara.

For Agezew Gebre, 34, owner of a double drum vibratory roller, Japanese made construction machinery; the last quarter year was not profitable.

His machine was damaged last August during the construction of a 23km road in outskirts Dessie, in northern Amhara Regional State, since when he claims to have lost around 100,000 Br, a three month income that he usually gets from 600 Br hourly rent.

The damage to the heavy vehicle involved the water pump's carbon seal and bearing, which could not be fixed because of the unavailability of spare parts in the market, according Agezew.

He paid a mechanic 1,000 Br plus allowances to fix the machine, but did not work. Then a mechanic, paid 500 Br a day, tried to do the job, but that did not work, too.

Spare parts have been ordered from Japan, he says, but they are yet to come.

Currently there are 6,032 construction machineries in Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian Investment Agency (EIA). From these 5,151 machineries are in Addis Abeba, 332 in Oromia and 302 in Amhara, and the balance in other regional states. These include excavators, cranes, bulldozer, loaders, graders and trucks.

Hailachew, an owner of grader, who declined to give his full name, says he paid a local spare parts supplier 30,000 Br two months ago to get gear box from the USA, and he is still waiting. He blames the delay on the poor performance of the spare part dealers.

The issue is one of price, too, and not only of shortage, for Zenawi Tibebu, who owns an excavator. He replaces oil filters for 800 Br, up from 150 Br a year ago. He is not content with the skill of the mechanics, too. Three mechanics, each paid 1,000 Br, to fix a problem on his machine, and none would make it.

"I wish I had not let them touch my machine," he says.

Some parts, such as dynamo, are also very difficult to find.

A collection of such problems have affected government projects. For example in Oromia Regional State, where 400 contractors are registered, the 5,757kms of roads constructed during 2011/12 was way below the planned 9,380kms, according to Alemu Bekele, coordinator at Oromia Roads Authority (ORA).

Mulugeta Tewelde, a machinery mechanic in Mekelle, Tigray, who, on Thursday November 8, 2012, was maintaining an excavator in Adigrat town, says that the problem of shortage of genuine parts, which mechanics try to mitigate by using modified parts, is compounded by lack of skills.

However, owners also resort to independent mechanics to avoid paying taxes if they go to garages and the importing companies, according to Mohamed Sultan, an operator of dozer, who doubles as a mechanic.

"We are qualified enough, though they do not trust us," he said.

Many mechanics cannot cope up with new technologies, Tamrat Gebremariyam, mechanical engineer and consultant says, as technical skill is not academically enriched.

There were around 70 construction machineries at Wuha Limit area in Akaki Kaliti District, along the Debre Zeit road, on Tuesday November 6, 2012. Mechanics were working to fix problems with seven machines, but were unable to do anything for three of them. Five other machines also needed to be fixed. The rest were in working condition but idle.

People like Alebel Tilahun, a machinery broker, feels that budgetary constraints on government projects have led to the idleness of the machine.

Nevertheless, it was in the space of one year that the number of machinery had jumped by over a thousand to its current level. The demand for construction machinery had led to increase in the rental price. The ORA had bought 366 dump trucks in 2011/12 for distribution to contractors on credit. At federal level, the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction (MoUDC) provided over a thousand dump trucks, 250 loaders, as well as other construction machinery and materials for contractors during the same year.

Ethiopia imported 421 excavators and bulldozers worth 50.1 million dollars in 2011/12. The country also brought in 671 loaders and backhoes at a cost of 17.8 million dollars within same year, according the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA).

The government has also allowed such machinery owners to import spare parts duty-free for the first five years after the import of the machinery. But many have not taken advantage of this, says Tibebe Solomon, owner of Technology Machinery Importers Plc. "Spare part prices have increased before many could take advantage of the incentive".

The shortage of genuine spare parts of construction machineries' is becoming a major problem that affect the sector heavily.

Tibebe adds that his company has given adequate training to its mechanics by six specialized mechanics from Korea, from where Technology Machinery Importers imports its machinery. Getahun Negash, communications head at the EIA said that the government made the machinery maintenance business available for domestic investors alone, because there were enough trained mechanics.

Criticizing the shortage of spare part supplies and inefficiency of mechanics, however, machinery owners like Agzew reckon foreign investors' involvement on the sector would help solve the problem.

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