AfricaLive: Please tell our readers about your company and the difficulties you had to overcome to get it off the ground.
Gallo Saidy: I have a rich background in the field having done my bachelors in the UK and my masters in Holland. I was inspired down this path by the need to make a change for my country and my people. There was also a notable change in leadership in my country. Leadership changes in the Gambia inspired the need to go back home and participate in development. The happenings in the United States with Africa being referred to in less than flattering terms also inspired me to go and do something.
We got started in 2018, in alignment with the spirit of coming back home. It all had to be built on the backdrop of know-how and a lot of network building. We sought to build a brand that people would relate to quality and consistency. Our strategy is to grow our business progressively and gain the trust of the people more and more each day. We went into the water and sanitation niche because we realised that there was a huge need there. Our vision is to be a multi-generational company like the likes of Bigen Africa so that we can sort out the needs of Africans from generation to generation.
AfricaLive: As we get closer to the launch of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area “AfCFTA”, what do you believe its impact will be, and what do you want to achieve in the African market space?
Gallo Saidy: If the agreement is operationalised properly, the sky’s the limit when it comes to opportunities. The African continent is very diverse and all the bottlenecks and trade barriers are not helping. We must develop the structures we need to create the Africa we want to see. Our wealth in terms of human as well as natural resources should be enough for us to develop the products we need to sustain ourselves. At the moment, most African construction firms buy products from abroad. It’s not that we don’t want to buy from within the continent, it’s because there is a huge communication breakdown that leads us down that path.
The new continental agreement can help us tear down those barriers and maybe we will start to see more intra-African trade than ever before. The lack of standardisation is another problem that we must attack. Our markets are filled with different products that serve the same function which makes quality control difficult. We must standardise so that we can have uniform standards and a way to tell good quality.
AfricaLive: Standardisation is such a major topic in the African construction scene, how fast do you think a set of uniform standards can be agreed upon?
Gallo Saidy: We can work faster if we come together instead of each country developing its own set of standards. It will be great to know that you can get your material needs met easily within your region because everybody is utilising the same standards. Uniform standards will make materials available locally; saving us money as well as all the time we lose trying to import foreign parts and materials.
AfricaLive: What are some of the challenges you have encountered when it comes to water and sanitation within your jurisdiction
Gallo Saidy: We have a huge skill gap in our jurisdiction as well as a need for more economic resources. The required technology is also missing in terms of hydraulic services. Though things are changing fast, we still have a long way to go. We are working to establish links with huge problem solvers based in Senegal and South Africa to help us scale our services so that we can serve more people.
AfricaLive: What do you think needs to be done to develop local competencies while also maintaining friendly foreign investor relations?
Gallo Saidy: Our government needs to tweak our procurement policies to ensure that indigenous businesses get a look in. It’s tough to compete with well-established foreign players that have all the right financing upfront. To get the look in, we must deserve it first and that’s why we are working with our South African as well as our Senegalese brothers and sisters to gain the competencies we need.
AfricaLive: What would a truly sustainable future for construction and infrastructure development look like to you, and how can it be achieved?
Gallo Saidy: The African Continental Free Trade Area is a pillar that can help us on the path to creating sophisticated infrastructure. Our skills gap must be addressed through proper training and transferring of skills to our people. Our training must be relevant as well because we don’t want to be teaching outdated methods that won’t serve us well going into the future. We must plan as well through the coming together of various stakeholders. Our planning must be geared towards improving communication and ensuring we have proper quality control.
AfricaLive: In relation to the skills gap, what conversations are you having or do you plan to have with academia to help improve the skills in our industry?
Gallo Saidy: We must open communication lines with academia and set up structures like the ones that exist in the UK and Holland. Proper certifications and memberships will make our engineers feel like part of a great community that works together. The presence of such synergies will motivate young people to pursue engineering because proper systems will support their aspirations.
AfricaLive: What would your message of confidence be about the future of the construction and infrastructure development space in the Gambia?
Gallo Saidy: My message to would-be investors is that we at Doku work hard to ensure that we provide top quality products. Honesty and ethics are important pillars to our organisation. If they are looking for a proper competent partner in the construction space in the Gambia, they would be in great company. Ours is a growing economy, with a rising population. There are lots of opportunities here to exploit because the infrastructure needs are glaring. Our country is, therefore, a great place to invest capital and have peace of mind because there are opportunities for high returns.