Through its Nairobi office AECOM an Integrated infrastructure delivery company, secures major infrastructure contracts in East Africa. This forms part of a concerted strategy to target transportation, water, and power projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya.
A major advantage for AECOM in the region is its ability to leverage its international expertise and experience on the continent, says Boni Chileshe, MD for East Africa. “There is not a single project delivered in Kenya that does not deploy at least three different teams. These include ongoing contracts for the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), which involve collaboration between Kenya, New Zealand, and the US, with local support from South Africa.
“We always deliver projects using different teams. We are probably the most internationally-aware AECOM office in how we collaborate and provide integrated delivery,” Chileshe reveals. Project-management expertise is also provided by AECOM India, which has extensive construction-supervision experience that can be accessed by regions such as East Africa, where these skill sets are not as well-entrenched.
The East Africa office is collaborating with AECOM UK on a biomass energy project. “We are collaborating to secure the commission of a 400 km, six-lane Mombasa-Nairobi Motorway, in conjunction with our transport team. “Infrastructure such as roads, airports, and railways is where the bulk of governments in East Africa are spending capex. A lot of gravel roads need to be upgraded to tarmac, while at least three airports a year are being developed at present.”
While East Africa has 280 million people, less than 27% have access to a reliable electricity supply. The mega projects involved here are some of the biggest in the world, such as the 1,743 km long transmission line from Zambia to Kenya, the feasibility for which was carried out by AECOM, with expertise provided by Montreal.
Water distribution and sanitation are as important to the ongoing development of East Africa, which accordingly runs parallel to transportation and power. Commenting on funding models for infrastructure development in Africa, Chileshe highlights that these have been based predominantly on aid from financial institutions like the African Development Bank and the World Bank. However, a quarter of all funding is still derived from China, along with a mix of other international players.
“Because such funding is often tied to sovereign guarantees and national debt means that ultimately it is unsustainable, as many countries have built up such a high debt burden that they cannot afford to borrow more,” Chileshe stresses, leading to alternative funding, particularly Public Private Partnerships(PPPs).
There is also a move towards Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contracts, which has seen AECOM begin to align itself with some suitably qualified and experienced contractors capable of undertaking complex integrated projects.
Since his appointment in September 2016, Chileshe has forged a close working relationship with the Kenyan government. “My main aim is to position AECOM as being able to plug any infrastructure gap that may exist, given our breadth of global experience and expertise. Our next step is to secure a range of major projects so as to give us the necessary critical mass to be cost-competitive in East Africa,” Chileshe concludes