AfricaLive: Please tell our readers briefly about G Meskel Teare and the philosophy behind it?
GebreMeskel Teare: We exist to make a decent contribution to the facilitation of affordable and decent housing for Africans. We want to get low-cost shelters built using local materials and we want to increase participation from locals as we do this. Our company also wants to influence Africa’s production capacity. Our continent is full of imports from China, Europe and the USA; we need less importation and more production.
I am glad that countries like Egypt are now rising and are gaining production capacity. For us, building skyscrapers and other modern facilities is great, but it is even greater to ensure the common man has decent housing, running water and a proper sanitation system. Our continent has a lot of local materials and local skills available to get this done.
AfricaLive: The cost of housing is a hot button issue all over the continent, how do you think it can begin to be solved and what steps are you taking in that direction?
GebreMeskel Teare: We are making inroads but are yet to fully take up alternative methods of building. Our projects include apartment buildings, and other amenities built using conventional methods of construction. We still largely have to import some heavy material but in some projects, we are using local material. Local materials save on funds and have proven to be quite solid in infrastructure building. Mendefera Referral Hospital, for instance, was a World Bank project that was built largely by local materials and by local people.
AfricaLive: The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area is touted as a catalyst for driving intra-African trade. Where do you see opportunities cropping up for African firms and what will this mean for G Meskel Teare?
GebreMeskel Teare: Before we can talk about the opportunities, we must establish certain harmonised standards. Setting up standards will create the foundation we need to start building serious infrastructure. Standards will also help us as we seek to reduce our over-reliance on imports and produce our own materials. If we had standardized materials for construction, it would save us a lot of time and money when building infrastructure. The solution here is for engineers, architects and manufacturers to come together and create similar standards across the continent.
We have, for the most part, worked on the health, educational and residential projects. I see opportunities coming when it comes to providing infrastructure for these sectors. Other stakeholders must come in and join in our efforts as we seek to create the infrastructure that will move our continent forward. Our ideas are being appreciated in the health sector for instance because our designs help medics serve patients even better.
AfricaLive: As engineers and other players in the industry search for green methods in building, what do you think is the future of green building in Africa?
GebreMeskel Teare: Green building is becoming fashionable now and is referred to as sustainable architecture, in industry circles. We support the concept of sustainable architecture because we must if we are to survive the next few generations. Sustainable building is all about utilizing what nature can provide us, to build the structures we need for our development. Using sustainable materials like mud is very good for building housing structures that do not require cooling systems in the house. With more and more industry professionals as well as governments taking to green building, the concept has a bright future on this continent.
AfricaLive: Africa is seen as a risky place to venture into by international investors. What needs to happen to assure investors that Africa is a safe, secure and profitable destination for capital?
GebreMeskel Teare: Engineers can put in more of a shift than architects when it comes to de-risking the continent. One way is to ensure we find innovative ways for low-cost building that will motivate investors because of the high return opportunities. There is also a need for proper designs and transparent systems, is all that’s needed to build investor trust in the continent.
AfricaLive: If you were to bring together Uganda’s leaders from government, civil engineering, and business to a roundtable meeting held at your HQ, what main issue would you rally Uganda’s leaders to unite and stand behind for the good of the sector & country?
GebreMeskel Teare: I would emphasize the need for transparency in the sector. Transparency is very important if we are to de-risk Africa and foster investor trust. Policy is another big issue for me. Policies should be there to benefit the majority so that our people can reap the best from our actions at the top. Great policy frameworks in this field ensure that locals are trained and quality vocational schools are built. Our country’s youth must have the technical training and knowledge required to build our infrastructure.
AfricaLive: If there was one project that you were most proud of what would it be and what makes your work fulfilling?
GebreMeskel Teare: I love my work because I get to meet people. My favourite project would be the Mendefera Referral Hospital which has a two hundred bed capacity. The hospital has been vital in helping Eritreans with healthcare. We also built a pharmaceutical centre in Eritrea which produces tablets and other medication for the locals. We have built residential apartments to help address the housing deficit that plagues our continent, as well as educational centres that get our children educated.
AfricaLive: What message of confidence would send out to audiences around the world about your firm and the future of the continent?
GebreMeskel Teare: I would tell them that Africa is coming of age and that our sector is rising by the day. I would also tell local engineers to ensure they pass their knowledge down to the youth. The culture of holding on to top positions even after retirement age stagnates us. The older generation can play a consultant role but the young should run the industry.