Manufacturing sector: Builders fret over rising costs of construction

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 00:00 |
Konza Technopolis Development Authority CEO John Tanui with June A Kimani, CEO Usafi Comfort Ltd.pHOTO/PD/BARRY SILAH

The success of Kenya’s manufacturing sector in production of construction materials is a key pillar in provision of 500,000 homes by 2022 under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s affordable housing plan as envisaged in the Big Four agenda. 

Speaking at the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) annual convention held in Mombasa last week, AAK President Mugure Njendu said traditionally, the role of the built environment professionals has been to design and implement projects in a collaborative and holistic. This means that the projects need to be seamless and organised.

“However, we want to begin influencing the decisions that can be made prior to and during these processes to impact the end product in terms of design and cost.

This is so that professionals have a say in product development as they understand the projects. In order to impact the construction sector holistically, we must start embracing our input in the manufacturing process,” Njendu said.

Developers in association with professionals must offer critical suggestions based on environment and the needs of residents.

Winnie Ngumi, CEO Space and Style, said that ease of doing business, construction of industrial parks or zones specifically for construction material, market access are some of the overall enablers of manufacturing sector going forward.

“Regulatory standards and enhancement of SME development are also key to boosting factory production,” she said. 

Reducing costs 

Ngumi said in order to achieve the set goals for manufacturing as part of the Big Four Agenda; the country should develop a demand-based master plan for social and affordable housing.

“We should set up structures for the built environment, use scale to reduce cost of construction and scale up developer capacity and financing,” she said. 

This means that the built environment needs wholesale ingredients to be succesful— eco-friendliness,expertise and good investment. Njendu said the biggest clincher for the professionals and designers will be adapting to new techniques and built environment professionals collaborating going forward. 

The architect said the traditional role of what is on paper, specifics and structural designs are now less important today. “We must look at how our building materials impact the end product,” she added.

The two were participating in a panel discussion on Building the Machinery for Agenda 4 Delivery at the conference.  Professionals in the sector of importance such as costing, utilisation of materials and environmental conservation.

Good infrastructure 

Group CEO Chandaria Industries, Dr Darshan Chandaria highlighted how manufacturing as a unit in the Big Four agenda relates to the other projects.

“Affordable housing implies the development of adequate, standardised and well-spaced houses with a continuous supply of clean water and electricity. The houses should be affordable enough to enable the occupants to meet other basic needs,” he said. 

He said affordable housing can be achieved by enacting strict measures to regulate land costs and rates, as well as availing public land for housing and settlement.

Policies should also be enacted to control and regulate land holding by investors, developing good infrastructure in both rural and urban centres and effective zoning by the government, he added. 

“Historically, the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the economy in Kenya has stagnated at around 10 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), averaging 8.4 per cent in 2017. 

There is now a renewed interest in the manufacturing sector through the Big Four agenda, which seeks to increase the GDP contribution of the sector to 15 per cent by 2022,” he said. 

This, he added, means the manufacturing sector plays an important role in driving economic development by stimulating and sustaining high productive growth, boosting employment opportunities for semi-skilled labour and building country competitiveness through exports.

Ngumi said growing the mortgage finance market and unlocking land for development would also spur manufacturing. 

More on Lifestyle