Architecture, construction and the building industry in Botswana generates a lot of revenue into the country’s economy. In fact the Construction Industry (CI) activities just contributed about 28% of the 9.6 % growth in economy announced earlier in the year by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The industry’s lucrative nature also is evident in the number of international companies and cooperation’s vying to set up shop in Botswana. Construction Industry is general a high profit industry and in Botswana it is a very high profit multibillion pula industry.
The Chinese construction firms came and conquered. The building construction landscape is now duly led and controlled by the Chinese contractors. In the architecture field, the South Africans firms have long been established poachers of the best design jobs, with local firms more than willing to donate and/or share this opportunities with them. Almost all the big design jobs have either been wholly designed across the boarder or partly with local firms acting as technicians and site supervisors. Lately, with the BIH, bigger boys from as far as US have waded into the industry’s potential. The BIH, which is a futuristic, innovative project stands to take our industry in bounds and leaps should its potential be fully harnessed.
The point I am trying to make with this last of the series essays is this; our local CI is very lucrative and wealthy in opportunities. These opportunities are what attract the international cooperation’s to our boarders. For us in Botswana we have to stand up and grab the opportunities and or learn to grow, where we find ourselves partnering with international giants. The era of partnering with international firms just to get morsels of the pie should be over. We have long sold out our profession to the international cooperation’s without full beneficiation. We have long been happy to pocket monies from projects that are rightfully ours without fully investing in our local knowledge building and capacity bettering. Our industry, which has been lucrative since the days when Constain completed the Gaborone Dam, is still lucrative to date even through a recession, but we have nothing in form of real growth to show for it. Our local construction companies are still eating small and basically nowhere to be seen. Our architectural landscape too is still dominated by the South African firms from behind the scenes. Our client bases, even government, still do not have faith in our design abilities even after more than 40 years of independence. Our government procuring systems are still so leaky that they can’t possibly be fit for purpose, while our project management capabilities are still frankly speaking horrendous. Our industry can’t even just put up a few simple projects such as schools, police stations, basic stadiums without being paired with foreign companies.
Therefore as, I write this last essay of the year and the series, I would like to end with a rousing call to mostly the young aspiring Industry professionals to wake up and claim an industry that is rightfully theirs and is full of potential. For a young architect just entering or beginning their journey into the profession, don’t be deterred by any of the negativity that’s out there, raise your head high and become the best you can be and work hard to reclaim our design profession. Work extra hard to make our people belief in our abilities and flare. Our old folks in the profession before us have, in my opinion failed us. They have let our industry become an easy picking for the international cooperate. They have let our government continually build substandard works for our communities and have watched over the monopoly of government owned parastals who in turn overlook us for foreign corporations. I should not be misunderstood as being anti-international cooperation’s. In fact I like international partnerships, but only if they are meaningfully and benefiting all partners equally. I’m very much for globalization but only if local industries get a chance to grow themselves and benefit from international dealings. Our industry too wants to grow so that we can one day participate in international markets but we will never reach that stage with our currents setup. Without a deliberate full beneficiation plan from our industry’s potential, through education, capacity, knowledge impact, social change and other real meaningful benefits, then there is absolutely no way we can embrace globalization.
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