Presenter: Lars Peter Jensen, Branch Manager, COLAS Uganda
Challenges and opportunities for delivering major projects
In his presentation, Lar described himself as African, grown in Tanzania. Lars has been in Uganda for 3 years now working on Kabaale International Airport.
Mr Jensen said that Uganda is the only country where you’re greeted with a smile when you arrive at customs and immigration at the airport; it is a really unique country which he encouraged people to visit and invest in.
Mr Jensen is working for a UK company called the Colas, developing the Kabaale international airport. Mr Jensen said he was very proud to have been shortlisted for the prestigious award in the UK for the management of the environmental and social impacts in Uganda. Uganda recently discovered oil in the west of the country along the Northern and Southern part of Lake Albert. The airport is located in that same area, in the District of Hoima. It’s an international runway which will serve the oil industry initially but then in the long term, will also meet the needs of the tourist industry and the business community.
The project is financed 85% by a loan from the UK export finance, an opportunity that he encouraged other UK companies to take advantage of.
After just one year, the project is currently at around 28% completion. The fully international categorized runway is going to be 3 1/2 km long. It is designed initially for large cargo aircraft such as the biggest 747 and the Antonov. Around 7 1/2 million cubic meters of earth have to be shifted, and about 20 thousand a day are currently compacted and approved. The works include access roads, water supplies and power supplies etc. It is a fully operational airport built absolutely from scratch, operating in an area with a lot of sensitive forest, rivers, wetlands and World Heritage national parks. From an environmental point of view, Colas has to abide not only by the Ugandan but by the strict UK regulations.
UK Export Finance applies the core standards in terms of requirements on how a company manages its environmental and social impacts. Colas is therefore following the international finance corporation performance standards which are globally respected and recognized. They write a 150-page monthly report to UK Export Finance on how the project is managed and on its performance in terms of environmental and social impacts. There is one large organisation on site completely dedicated to environmental and social impact issues, a fantastic team lead by one expatriate manager supported by 20 local staff, all fully trained for this particular job.
Social engagement is crucial and they do a lot of the socio-economic development, community development and provide economic opportunities, employment, skills transfer and a stakeholder engagement, all crucial to their engagement on-site. The objective is that they want to build long-term sustainable relationships in the community through a process of ongoing disclosure, dialogue with an open transparent and a well implemented grievance mechanism so that both communities and employees have access to anonymous grievances. (to register unlock anonymous grievance.)
The company has a labour force of over 800 directly employed people and about 16 expatriates. The company has made a commitment to the King of Bunyoro that Colas will give favorable preferential treatment to his subjects. Colas now has about 27% of the workforce coming from Hoima and 20% of its employees are women, a percentage they are constantly trying to increase. There is a centralised HR system to promote transparent and fairness and maintain a centralised database on site with over 3000 applicants at the moment to avoid employing cousins and brothers and sisters and friends. The company has a policy of employing only experienced and skilled people.
Workers are provided with accommodation, allowances and subsidised accommodation for workforce and training and apprenticeship programs have been setup.
Stakeholder engagement with communities is something that the company is proud of. The company provides free health screening, free condoms and so far, have distributed over 35000 condoms. It has dedicated a lot of effort to sensitization employees around sexual harassment. Canteen facilities have been set up with four different vendors where employees can choose the kind of food they want at lunch time.
The company has on-going radio talk shows on local radios in local languages where they brief on employment opportunities and share news on general progress, problems and concerns. The shows are very well received.
In terms of corporate social responsibility activities, the company is engaged in renovating schools, boreholes, chess workshops for the local kids, conducted by the chess teacher actor in the film “The Queen of Katwe”.
Lars disclosed that they secured another project to set up grain post-harvest processing facilities around Uganda also with UK Export Finance. This project is a joint venture with a fantastic company from the UK called Alvan Blanch. Lars also shared that they are developing another project in Kampala to build and maintain urban roads.