AfricaLive: Please tell readers the main philosophy behind Delin Consult and its DNA at the core.
Magnus Quarshie: Delin Consult is a multi-disciplinary engineering firm providing technical financial, institutional and management consultancy services to both public and private sectors of Ghana as we aspire to go into places within the region.
Back in the year 2000 when we began, we set out to distinguish ourselves by not just providing infrastructure solutions; but also improving the quality of life for Ghanaians and those within the sub-region where we operate. Our main goal is improving the quality of life, this is the philosophy of this organisation at its core, and the message is passed down to all our members of staff. We want to serve the community in a way that we would want our own dwellings served.
AfricaLive: What are your areas of expertise that you bring to the market?
Magnus Quarshie: We are engineering experts in short. Broadly as an engineering firm, we are involved in transportation and traffic engineering, highway engineering, bridge engineering, structural engineering, water and environmental engineering as well as many other disciplines.
As the founder and lead, I have training as a civil engineer and a second degree in transportation engineering. I have a strong focus on urban design with pedestrianisation and cycling in mind. We believe that everybody walks or at least should walk to places in the city, so cycling and pedestrianisation should be mainstream in our cities and emerging cities. In most of our cities, almost 80 percent of trips are done by at least one form of public transport and less than 13 per cent on private automobile means.
If you take our major cities like Accra and Kumasi and cities in Togo and the Ivory Coast, less than 10 percent of the population own a private vehicle. There is, therefore, the need to look into public transit. I have, therefore, gained a strong interest in acquiring skills and knowledge to help us improve public transport. I am also big on creating conducive public spaces for our people and tourists as well. Tourists are usually not interested in seeing big interchanges and roads, they are mostly interested in public spaces, and they usually want to walk or cycle. I believe that if we want to transform, we have to build cities that are safe for children and the elderly.
AfricaLive: The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will be going ahead in early 2021, hopefully acting as a catalyst for driving Intra-African trade. What are your ambitions, both in the short term and long term, when it comes to trading internationally?
Magnus Quarshie: Locally, we are involved in some key projects. We are currently supervising the construction of a hundred and ten kilometer road located in the North of Ghana. The road stretches from Bolgatanga in the North to the border town with Togo. The road project is worth about $167 million, and we have teams on site, ensuring that we are on course and on time.
We are also involved in the Ghana Gas enclave area where we are supervising the building of road and drainage facilities for five local communities that benefited from Corporate Social Responsibility funds released by Ghana Gas.
Design-build projects are also part of our agenda; we are involved in an upgrading project in a depressed area in Accra prone to flooding and filth. Our concept seeks to turn about 60000sqm of land to be reclaimed into dignified public spaces. Our exploits across the continent have seen us partner with a local firm in Sierra Leone to complete a World Bank project that aims to rehabilitate an area that got ravaged by landslides back in 2018.
Before the pandemic, we had plans to take advantage of the AfCFTA agreement by setting up shop in Côte D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and beyond the sub-region. In the long term, we want to develop strategic partnerships that will enable us to take our expertise to new African jurisdictions without necessarily being in those places.
In the sub-region alone, we have about three hundred million West Africans divided into fifteen ECOWAS states. There is a need to create adequate infrastructure to help our populations navigate more easily. You may be aware that plans are underway to develop an ECOWAS highway as well as the West Africa railway corridor. All these plans to develop established transit routes are meant to improve quality of life and make doing business more comfortable. In the recent past, we have just concluded a project known as the strategic environmental assessment of the West Africa Growth Ring project. The project looks at the main corridors connecting the West Africa sub-region from Senegal to Cote D’Ivoire. We are also looking at opportunities along the corridors where businesses could grow. Africa has a very young population, and these projects also seek to develop job opportunities for them to work and support themselves.
AfricaLive: Within Ghana and West Africa, what do you consider to be the primary opportunities and threats facing your sector?
Magnus Quarshie: I think Africa and Ghana, in particular, is best placed right now to deploy technology to fast track development. If you compare our region to other places like North America, for example, I would say that we have the best opportunity to gain from new infrastructure and the chance to do new things. When you talk about technologies like Artificial Technology (AI), I have seen what these can do to transform the look of cities and improve them. Technologies like AI are perfect for our young people who are technologically inclined to seek and find job opportunities as we build the future we are trying to see. When you talk about the construction industry, we have about seventy-six thousand kilometres of road and that the Ministry of Roads and Highways intends to improve these. They want to ensure that the condition mix is that; half of these roads are world-class and another 40 per cent fair standard, as we gradually reduce bad roads to only about 10 per cent.
The rail sector, on the other hand, requires about $20 billion in investment for the four thousand kilometres of rail we have. Much investment is needed to improve both the road and rail infrastructure, and we have space for all kinds of technology to make our dreams a reality. In Ghana, we have the right environment for business, which brings massive opportunities to investors and job seekers. When it comes to threats, we must deal with issues of bureaucracy, lack of regulation on engineering practice, as well as lack of local content policy. I see potential for local industries to grow, but I think that it can be uncompetitive sometimes when you are going up against multinationals. To curb bank funded inclinations towards foreign firms, we need a strong local content policy that safeguards the interests of indigenous firms. I cannot just walk into Abu Dhabi for instance, and start practicing. I will have to go through certain processes that might take a while before I am approved. Similar conditions should be applied here for foreign firms. We are not advocating for exclusion, we just want clear inclusiveness for local firms.
When it comes to opportunities there is a lot to do in ICT, Engineering, and other related sectors. It’s all about discovering and exploring new markets across the continent. If we were to connect all the eighty three major cities in Africa, we would need to construct and also improve about 83,000 kilometers of road. You can only imagine what that will do for us in terms of trade. Now that we have signed the AfCFTA agreement, we need to build rails, roads and waterways so that the cost of doing business can go down. I believe that Africa and Ghana in particular is the right place to do business. I have always believed that the quality of infrastructure in a country has to do with the quality of engineering and engineers in those countries. A country like South Korea is a great example of quality engineering. South Korea produces more engineers per capita than even the U.S and you can tell that by the infrastructure in their country. Proper engineering ability has the potential to transform economies and drive development agendas. Without engineering, we are not going anywhere as a country or region.
AfricaLive: Ghana faces a significant long term challenge from the twin pressures of a growing youth population and increased workplace automation brought by the 4th Industrial Revolution.
In short – you must create 10 million new jobs over the coming years to avoid mass youth unemployment and possible social unrest. What steps do you believe need to be taken to empower Ghana’s private sector to succeed in driving economic growth and job creation on this scale?
Magnus Quarshie: What I perceive has happened when you look at the fast-developing Asian nations like China, for instance, is that there is a decisive and intentional effort to support companies and ensure they stand on their own. If you take the story of Korea from back in the ‘70s, Korean organizations benefited from knowledge transfer from their American counterparts. These developments led to the birth of companies like Samsung and other great companies that descended from that period. When I was in Korea, I noticed that there is a Ministry of Knowledge Economy. The Ministry seeks to export Korean knowledge to other countries that may require it as they try to grow. In Ghana, I believe we can benefit from a model that will compel local construction firms as well as local consulting firms like Delin, to work together where the government assigns them with a bank and a management firm that will see out large projects to completion. With government backing, we can now go to the open market and get financing at a cheaper rate. In the end, the profits and all the benefits will remain here as opposed to when you contract a multinational.
Down the line of such a model, we can also involve a university because we have to focus on linking industry with academia. If we focus on such a model, there is no doubt that more than ten million jobs can be created. We also need to focus on a mantra that his Excellency our president has put forward, which is “Ghana Beyond Aid”. What our president is trying to communicate to us is that we need to transform our thinking to become people who are morally upright and conscious enough to utilise our resources properly. The overall message is that we should be in charge of our destiny, and our young people will gain the most from this. It’s not just about moving away from depending on donors; it’s also about moving away from a life of waiting for employment and taking charge. The message by our president also has undertones of developing a hard working culture, a culture of saving and that of telling the truth. If we can take this up seriously, we can fund our projects and get things done fast.
AfricaLive: A key focus of our work is in bringing together all the stakeholders in society to explore solutions to the challenges facing African markets.
Let me ask you; if you were to bring together Ghana’s leaders from government, higher education, and business to a roundtable meeting held at your HQ – what would be the main item on the agenda?
Magnus Quarshie: The main thing for me is the message that knowledge must be shared. Delin has taken the path of a learning organization. Today we have groups like “Engineering without borders” and other innovative groups. Indeed knowledge transcends borders. I must admit that some regions are far advanced in this discipline than we are because of more experience. Delin Consult welcomes partnership to solve challenges that face us. The value we can provide as a local firm is; local knowledge and experience, as well as the right skills to make any project a success. We want to get involved in joint ventures for the benefit of society. The most important thing is to bring in the relevant expertise to meet with the local indigenous experience in order to improve the quality of life for our communities. Ghana, for me, is the right place to do business. No matter what business thrives on our hospitality and optimum conditions.