At the Syokimau Railway Station, the statue of the Kamba independence heroine it celebrates stands in imposing majesty, as if watching over the proceedings in muted approval. Perhaps it is fitting that a facility of such significance should bear a name that carries similar historical heft.
For this Sh400 million-station off Mombasa Road is the first train passenger terminal built in Kenya since the colonialists laid out the trunk grid way back in 1935! Interestingly, it is also the first structural addition to the country’s railway transport infrastructure.
But historical accolades aside, the facility is also a monument to modern construction excellence and a benchmark for what a modern transport terminal should look like. Featuring an intermodal exchange, a spar line to the main trunk, a 1,200-capacity car park, restaurants, shopping arcade and other conveniences, the 20,000 passengers-a-day facility is the most advanced such unit in the region.
It is easy to see why the Syokimau Railway Station has become the star project for El-Noor General Contractors, the construction company that put it all together, ahead of deadline and largely within budget.
Syokimau is a long distance from the North Eastern town of Wajir, where Yussuf Abdullahi Loge, founded the company way back in 1995.
“Having worked as a civil servant for many years, I knew the experience would serve me well in my new business pursuit. Ever since that time, I have never looked back. It has been tough staying on and sustaining the business but I have learnt to overcome difficult situations and forge ahead,” he says, confidence etched on his face.
El-Noor General Contractors Limited started small. Loge still remembers the company’s first job as if it happened only yesterday. It was to put up administration police lines in Hadado in Wajir County. The next job that followed was the construction of 14 water tanks at the Kenya Power’s Wajir sub-station.
“I think I did a good job, because thereafter, more jobs started to come my way,” says Loge, whose civil service experience must have weighed in his favor, especially when it comes to understanding public procurement procedures and stakeholder relations.
From the dust bowl of Wajir handling small district projects to assignments like the Sh400 million Syokimau Railway Station, Loge would be the first one to admit that E-Noor’s has been a veritable, long and difficult journey. It has been an oddyssey of grit, determination, hard work, astute leadership and focus.
Along the way, the firm has built an enviable reputation for quality work based on industry best practice, honesty and financial propriety, irreducible factors critical to success in the construction and civil engineering industry.
“A good name in this and any other business is worth a fortune. We believe in achieving targets and setting objectives. We stick to time lines as well as guidelines and do not compromise on standards,” says Loge.
Other projects in E-Noor’s portfolio include Wajir slaughter-house, Laza-Wenje Road, officers’ mess and office block at Vigilance House (police headquarters)
So how did the company make it to where it is today, in a cut-throat, sometimes anything-goes business dominated by big names and in which you are only as good as your last project?
Loge puts it down to two things: the culture of hard work and exertion that the company has built across all cadres over the years and the quality of the team it has put together.
“I have a passion for my work. I am a hands-on person. I realized that the more time I spend on my projects supervising the progress, the better the results I got. I involve myself so that I can the best from my workers. They consider me one of their own and it was not long before they got used to me hanging around. I also managed to get them focused on their tasks. I just love my close engagement with them,” says Loge.
He envisions El Noor General Contractors with other industry players being catalysts to Kenya’s growth path that includes infrastructure development with other facilities outlined by Vision 2030 economic blue print yet to be actualised.
A contractor’s work entails meticulous planning, sourcing of raw materials, assembling right tools, identifying sub-contractors and personnel, obtaining requisite permits and licences as well as ensuring building codes and safety regulations are followed.
The local construction industry is a tough terrain beset by sometimes unforeseen escalation in cost of goods, services and raw materials. It doesn’t help that some of these materials are denominated in foreign currency, with their attendant swing. Some procurement regulations are also punitive and restrict the variation of quoted prices on specific jobs, which impacts on set budgets.
Contractors, who shoulder responsibility and risk involved in the project, have to maintain a delicate balance of tracking and controlling expenditure, monitoring schedules and cash flows and maintaining accurate records without compromising quality.
Loge said El-Noor had set high standards for itself with completion of Syokimau station based on highest competencies available in the market as the firm benchmarked its performance against finest builders in the world.
“It enabled us to maintain a reputation anchored on competence, timeliness, consistency and financial propriety. Syokimau has afforded us the opportunity to showcase the quality of our work and unstinting commitment to deliver on multi-million contracts within schedules and on budget,” he said.
Kenya’s construction industry is vibrant and very competitive as there is a lot of improvement being witnessed currently in implementation of projects, technology, capital infusion, skilled labor and design work.