The African continent is thriving. After historic barriers to developmeant and several struggles to compete with traditionally colonial powers, Africa is now beginning to emerge as a contender in the global economic arena. Investors and entrepreneurs flock to resource-rich African countries, hoping to profit from the influx of success. Others aim to assisting Africa in the early stages of its growth, hoping to help foster economic and social independence.
Africa’s construction industry is no different. In the past decade, entrepreneurs have sparked building projects that both urbanize and improve the quality of living in many areas. One such man is Karl-Heinz Schulz, founder and CEO of Namibia Construction. Schulz believes that the key to success in Africa’s growing construction industry stems from fair industry practices, safe workplaces, and local innovation.
Giving Back to Community: The Construction Industries Federation (CIF) of Namibia
As founder of Namibia Construction, Schulz aims to create a safe, profitable company that can compete in both the local and international market. Over the past five years, Namibia Construction has teamed with several other prominent local construction companies in completing large-scale, community-oriented projects such as the Polytechnic of Namibia’s School of Health and Applied Science building, nationally renowned office blocks, and schools for all age groups.
Schulz is also President of an industry-support based organization called the Construction Industries Federation (CIF) of Namibia. Founded in 1952, the CIF acts as the voice of the entire construction industry of Namibia in all international and national matters. The organization aims at promoting fair and safe practices among its members, providing employment for local workers, and offering workers an opportunity to improve their skills.
Schulz has been a particularly vocal member of the CIF, proving his dedication to worker safety and support. In 2010, he slammed companies that defied Namibian labour laws. In 2011, he wrote a strongly-worded letter to the Tender Board and the Ministry of Works and Transportation of Namibia in regards to the growing Chinese domination within the construction industry.
In a comment made to New Era, Schulz explains, “The issue is getting bigger. The time has come to take action with the involvement of all parties concerned. It has gone on for too long now.”
Challenges of Global Interest
Africa is ripe for development. This attractive profit potential draws in several influential actors from across the world. In Namibia, the Sino-African economic relationship has grown particularly prominent in determining the fate of the construction industry.
In October 2010, the Namibian government decided to award the rights to several construction projects to the China Henan International Corporation group (CHIC), as their bid was more than $40 million lower than that of the lowest local company.
However, the bid award failed to acknowledge the negative effects CHIC’s rights would have on the local population. Unlike Namibia Construction and similar local-based companies, CHIC would not be employing Namibian employees. Its contribution would end at the bid price.
Schulz, in a comment made to The Namibian noted, “There is nothing wrong with foreign competition. It must just be fair.” Schulz believes his company could have contributed in creating over 500 new jobs for Namibians, while giving these workers the skills and training to excel in the future. In the long run, the CHIC deal offers Namibia nothing.
In his final comment with The Namibian, Schulz asks, “How are we supposed to build up capacity if the bulk of the work goes to foreigners?”
Breaking New Ground
So, what’s next for Namibia Construction? Schulz believes the way forward is paved with fruitful partnerships with local businesses.
In May 2013, the CIF made an agreement with the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union regarding issues of employment. The agreement specifically noted the specific wage requirements necessary for construction workers, which included a 9% wage increase and stipulations for an annual 9.5% wage increase in the future.
This professional relationship will help create safer workplaces for Namibian construction industry employees, as well as improve the overall quality of life in Namibia.
In a 2013 newsletter, the CIF recognized the growing number of partnerships being made within the Namibian construction sector. These partnerships allow for stronger bargaining power with governmental and corporate institutions, as well as help standardize policy and procedures among similar firms.
Schulz, the CIF, and Namibia Construction play a crucial role in the development of Namibia’s construction industry growth. With continued success, these entities will help propel the Namibian economy towards a strong future.