interviewBy Julius Businge
Since 2000, SBI International Holdings AG (Uganda) has been involved in large scale projects in the country including the 100 Km- Kabale-Kisoro-Bunagana Rd, which it will hand over soon. Shay Cameo, the company's managing director, spoke to Julius Businge about their operations:
What is your assessment of Uganda's construction sector generally?
It is growing and I would say it will contribute to the overall growth of the economy. When a road is constructed it will help transport goods from producing centers to market centers and that will promote trade. Two, when you put up a building and it is hired by investors they pay taxes, which taxes do a lot in growing the economy. I think the economy is growing on this sector because it can't run without roads, without proper housing, without power dams etc. To me the sector is the engine for Uganda's economy and it should be given serious attention.
What are some of the major challenges facing the sector in Uganda generally?
The volatile economic conditions like the high inflationary pressures, increases in global fuel prices, volatilities in the exchange rate among others, those push up the cost of these projects and affects planning and budgeting for them.
As a key player in the sector, where in your view does Uganda need to improve in the management of its road infrastructure countrywide?
I think the government has to do much more and ensure proper training is given to the engineers in this sector for it to grow. When you get a graduate from the University and other institutions of learning and you use them without proper and good skills then you won't deliver a good work. The government has to commit resources on the maintenance of the roads and this should be done in proper time. One shall not wait that the conditions on that road to worsen and then take action. It is better to do it on time and spend less on it so that everyone benefits.
What have been your experiences working on the Kisoro Rd, which is a really big project by Ugandan standards?
The construction of the Kabale-Kisoro-Bunagana road estimated at 100km was a challenging road given the fact that we did the work in the rainy season and in a mountainous that forced us to spend more time than expected on the site. But we ensured that the work was done in right quality and delivered on time. The road was a gravel road and we had to upgrade it to tarmac. It was really a mega project. It starts at Kabale town, connects to Kisoro town and onwards to the border with the DR Congo at Bunagana. At Kisoro town, a spur of six km connects it to the border with Rwanda at Kyanika, thus effectively connecting Uganda to the road networks of both DR Congo and Rwanda. The upgrading enhanced the administrative and social coverage in the region.
SBI has been here for over 12 years, what other major projects have you worked on?
We have accomplished many other projects. On the roads side, we have worked on roads such as Jinja - Bugiri, Nebbi - Arua, Karuma - Olwiyo, Kagamba - Rukungiri, Kasese - Kilembe - Kikorongo - Equator, and Hima - Kasese - Kikorongo projects; Masaka-Mbarara and Kampala - Masaka among others.
What makes SBI unique from other firms in this industry?
In 2000, SBI registered its branch in Uganda. Since then, the branch has developed an impressive track record in Uganda as one of the largest and stable construction companies. SBI is valued not only for its know-how, efficiency and stability, but also for an organizational methodology that places a high priority on consistent operations and commitment, regardless of external changes or upheavals.
Where do you see the construction sector and the roads industry in Uganda in the next few years?
I see the sector growing and with the new players coming on board that won't fail to happen. The old players like us have experience that is healthy for this sector. The government will continue to invest and develop the infrastructure network as part of its master plan.
What are your plans in the next few years?
We are committed to delivering the best quality construction services through cooperation and team work. We continue to focus on being the leading construction company in Uganda providing an array of quality services to a cross-section of clients while supporting the community and forstering economic development in an environment-friendly manner.