AfricaLive: Who does Khato Civils work with in its mission to develop African infrastructure?
Mongezi Mnyani: We focus mainly on the public sector because that is where we believe our services are most needed. Our main client, therefore, is the government where we help out in the housing department, water department, electricity, roads and various other infrastructure departments. We now understand how various governments work and have gained experience on how to collaborate with them while also playing an advisory role.
We place a heavy focus on creating products that end-users will benefit from with the help of various governments. It’s not just about business for us, we work to ensure that we leave a legacy by changing the lives of people in a certain community.
AfricaLive: How exactly would a client’s project be improved by working with Khato Civils?
Mongezi Mnyani: We provide a total package because we don’t believe in a silo approach. Khato embraces working with other stakeholders and we also have a sister company known as South Zambezi. South Zambezi is an engineering company with all the engineering competencies you can imagine and they play an important role in advising us accordingly during projects. South Zambezi also oversees projects on our behalf on a construction and design perspective.
We, therefore, have an advantage over other companies because we have an extra pair of eyes looking out for us. The fact that we are a black-owned company is an advantage as well because there aren’t many in our industry. We also own our equipment, so issues of outsourcing do not arise. We have also constructed deals with reputable companies that provide items like pipes where we have been allocated entire production lines. Deals of this magnitude assure our clients of steady supply without delay or stoppages. 100 per cent quality is in our company DNA and we go out of our way to hire the most skilled people even if it means bringing in expatriates.
Time is also a huge factor for us because our desire is always to save time and money. We don’t wish to rush projects but rather exceed expectations when it comes to timelines as much as we can. Our hands-on approach in project management works wonders for quality control and we also put in extra hours including weekends, to ensure projects are done in good time.
AfricaLive: What do people find surprising about Khato Civils?
Mongezi Mnyani: What they find surprising is our focus on technology. We are always looking to incorporate new technologies because we believe they can move the needle forward for us. It is important to have a strong technological focus in this day and age and that is why we scour Europe, America and Asia for new technologies that can help us scale our work.
Recently, we went to Italy and picked up one of their latest technologies which is the Tesmec trencher that we use for excavation. Each of those machines cost us $2 million and we own 8 of those right now. The technology is worth it because we can now excavate up to 5 kilometers a day compared to 600metres a day using the old technology. Aside from technology, we also invest in people skills.
AfricaLive: What makes you stand out from competitors?
Mongezi Mnyani: We pride ourselves in producing quality work, saving money for our clients and empowering local communities.
AfricaLive: Tell us about the Lake Malawi project Khato Civils are engaged in.
Mongezi Mnyani: As I mentioned before, our work with various governments in ensuring the provision of services such as water. The Lake Malawi project occurred to us through a tender floated by the Malawi government and we won the tender after beating six strong contenders from all over the world. Our work was to extract water from Lake Malawi to the Lilongwe water station which is 124 Kilometres away.
Water had to be cleaned and transported to the water station before being piped to the public. The project came about due to a government effort to ensure sustainable water supply in Lilongwe because their dams couldn’t hold water for long. So far, we have done all our designs and they have been approved by the Malawi Water Board and the Malawi government.
We are now waiting for a loan agreement to be signed between external financiers and the government for us to proceed. We are happy to go into a country like Malawi and make an impact. We plan to work on the project for two years before handing it over to the water board after having trained them accordingly.
AfricaLive: What would you say is your primary unique service offering?
Mongezi Mnyani: We provide advice on how the design should look and how we can execute cost-effectively. The Malawi project, for instance, had nothing in place at the start. We had to deploy engineers to carry out relevant studies and ensure the project is designed properly. The importance of preliminary work before the execution stage is very important. We are resourceful enough and open enough for the use of various energy forms along the course of work. We have deployed hydropower and even solar power to ensure continuity at all times. We also believe in preserving natural sites, indigenous trees, graves and other important landmarks of the country.
AfricaLive: What was the main objective of the project you have in Botswana?
Mongezi Mnyani: Botswana is a growing country with a capital that has biting water shortages. Most of the water sources in the country lie in the south while the capital is in the north. The government of Botswana thus unveiled an initiative known as the North-South Carrier Project. We have pulled all the stops to ensure we complete the project in a year as per the client’s wishes, though such a project would normally take two and a half years. Once the project is done, we believe we will unveil one of the most important and impactful projects we have ever completed.
AfricaLive: How does sourcing pipes from South Africa differ from sourcing elsewhere even before the pandemic?
Mongezi Mnyani: Sourcing locally ensures fewer disruptions and delays occasioned by border processes. We can have our engineers work with suppliers to ensure we get pipes that work for the project and also fit international standards. Executing the project is much easier now because we don’t run the risk of running out due to delays at the port or a certain border.
AfricaLive: The Mamashia plant project also looks interesting; please give readers some insight into that.
Mongezi Mnyani: The project is interesting because the client is determined to see enough water supply through the Malawi North-South Carrier Project. We are going to work on giving the project an extra 120 megalitres of water above the current capacity. This is going to be a 36-month long project but we believe we can get it done even sooner.
AfricaLive: How would you want to impact the water sector in general throughout the continent?
Mongezi Mnyani: We believe that we have enough natural resources that have not been taken advantage of. Engagements must be made across the public and private sectors to ensure that we have initiatives that aid in tapping our natural water resources.
AfricaLive: Concerning infrastructure development, what stakeholders are required for the provision of projects that transform communities?
Mongezi Mnyani: Infrastructure initiatives must be government-driven because that’s where the agenda is set and major decisions are made. Governments must also develop strategies that entice the private sector so that firms like ours have an easier time carrying out projects.
AfricaLive: Does Khato Civils have any commitment to the principles of green building?
Mongezi Mnyani: Yes we do, our designs always have an element of green building in terms of energy savings, alternative sources of energy and local materials. We also research and look to bring in green technologies so that we ensure sustainability even as we build.
AfricaLive: What do you think it would take to accelerate infrastructure development across the continent?
Mongezi Mnyani: Political will is at the centre of it all. Governments must also collaborate to come up with joint solutions to infrastructural problems. Europe is a model of how intra-continental networks can be created and maintained.
AfricaLive: In your opinion, how can African businesses balance economic growth and environmental sustainability?
Mongezi Mnyani: Balance can be achieved if we commit to a long term outlook. We have to always consider how our actions today will affect our future. We have to think about how our moves impact societies socially, economically and environmentally. Environmental impact studies must be taken by independent bodies so that we don’t end up jeopardising the future in the name of development.