Constructing Flexibility Across Borders
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Stuart Parker
Spencon has defied numerous regional and industrial challenges since its inception in 1979 to expand its extensive portfolio of infrastructure projects to the majority of East Africa.
Specialised in the construction of water supply and sewage systems, as well as civil works and power lines across the region, the Company now comprises four regional offices as evidence of its rapid growth over the decades.
Headquartered in Nairobi, its 200-plus projects have bridged not only Kenya, but also Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and South Sudan; making the business one of the most widespread in the local sector.
This isn’t to say that the business has been spread too thinly, however, with Spencon growing methodically and proactively over the years alongside carefully selected strategic partners; all of which has led to the most expansive decade in its history since the turn of the century, which has incorporated the majority of its East African migration through the delivery of exciting infrastructure projects.
“Our focus has always been significant infrastructure projects, not only because of the scale of opportunity available but also to fulfil our mission of providing innovative engineering solutions that enhance the quality of life in East Africa,” says the Company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Andrew Ross. “We are incredibly proud of our track record in implementing successful infrastructure projects and continuously strive to build upon this.”
Decades of experience
To compound this adherence to continuous improvement, much of Spencon’s recent development has surrounded the refinement of its employment structure, from the top down.
Initially, this comprised the introduction of a new management team to ensure that recent successes and innovations being achieved in the construction domain are leveraged effectively to establish future partnerships, both locally and internationally.
Ross notes: “Our management team, with decades of experience working across multinational organisations, have been key in implementing procedures that enable us to work more efficiently and incorporate best practice from around the world. Hence, we can retain our East African focus but operate using international standards.”
Further down the hierarchy, Spencon has worked hard throughout its tenure to offset the much publicised infrastructure gap in the region, placing emphasis and responsibility on the Company to not only find the most talented and skilled personnel for its own benefits, but to also aid the wider communities and industry through the development of younger workers.
“As an organisation, we have the capabilities and scope to transform communities through the successful delivery of road, water and power projects,” Ross continues. “At Spencon, we pay great attention to developing local talent and skills which can bring about its own set of opportunities and challenges in East Africa.
“Understanding the importance of local knowledge, we are committed to investing in developing our people on the ground through in-house training.”
Addressing this infrastructure gap requires a long-term strategy and dedication to corporate social responsibility in East Africa, and the Company’s regular upgrades to its training and development initiatives make sure that a sustainable pool of talent is being formed for years to come.
The size and subsequent versatility of Spencon is key in overcoming challenges such as skills shortages, while it has also been imperative in achieving its primary business goal of being a main contractor on significant engineering and construction projects.
Further enforcing this claim is its collaboration with leading international partners, as Ross explains: “We regularly work with the international development agencies, including the World Bank and African Development Bank, amongst others.
“Our projects vary vastly in terms of size and our flexibility to implement such projects is one of our USPs. We are small enough to subcontract to international companies and big enough to be a main contractor. Hence we either work alone or in partnership with international civil engineering and construction companies who respect our ability and local knowledge.”
The extensive cross-border experience that has been attained as a consequence of its flexibility has given Spencon a reputation for completing projects, to high standards, in both rural and urbanised locations; showcasing a diversity in its portfolio than many market competitors would struggle to replicate.
“We are unique in the sense that our skills, plants, equipment and people can and do regularly move across borders and locations,” the CEO adds. “Because of our track record in implementing such a diverse range of projects in different locations, we are trusted by our clients to deliver complex projects successfully.”
Affirming its reputation as a trusted partner with numerous international businesses through its completion of various complex projects, a significant amount of time is spent in collaboration between all parties, to hone in on future opportunities and forecast industry trends.
Building on successes
As far as industry forecasts go at present, the outlook is positive, with the construction sector largely thriving in East Africa despite policy and regulatory issues that can occasionally challenge the delivery of larger, more complex infrastructure projects.
“While the construction industry in East Africa is performing positively, there are systematic challenges that need to be addressed to ensure sustained growth across the industry,” Ross says. “Nevertheless, at Spencon, we work with our partners to overcome such issues by seeking out external contractors where necessary, but also by making use of our local knowledge and expertise to ensure smoother delivery of our projects.”
As the leading indigenous construction company in East Africa, there is an expectation to facilitate such challenges, while taking advantage of less obscured opportunities moving forward.
Such opportunities are currently being seen via an increased demand for road, water and electricity projects in East Africa, which Spencon is well positioned to capitalise on as part of its long-term growth plan; spanning electrification projects in Uganda and Rwanda, all the way to water treatment plant installations in Tanzania.
Ross concludes: “Over the next year, we are focusing our efforts on building on our successes of the past and seeking the multitude of opportunities available in East Africa for sustainable infrastructure projects.
“We continue to diversify between infrastructure, water and power projects that support regional economic growth and development as well as building on relationships with our partners.
“To support our long-term plans for growth, we are committed to investing in talent, skills, people and technology. We continue to support innovation within our company and the sector and retain our focus on sustainable development through controlled regional expansion that makes best use of our expertise and flexibility across borders.”