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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Capacity building in Africa’s construction industry: A case study of Kenya

The construction industry in many African countries is dominated by foreign construction companies undertaking large infrastructure projects. Their presence is influenced by increased foreign direct investment (FDI) flows for infrastructure projects and the lack of adequate capacity among local construction companies to undertake these projects. This dominance further limits the opportunities for capacity development of local firms to carry out such projects in the future.

This research builds on literature on capacity building in the construction industries in Africa to determine current measures, their effectiveness, and their limitations. This is achieved through desk research by reviewing journal articles, industry reports, international development organization publications, conference proceedings, and relevant government and organization websites. Seventeen semi-structured interviews were then conducted with construction industry stakeholders in Kenya, which is used as a case study, to determine the challenges in the industry and appropriate strategies to build sustained capacity.

Findings indicate that there is a lack of coordinated efforts by industry stakeholders, including academia, to provide relevant and practical training. Furthermore, poor implementation of existing policies limits the transfer of skills, knowledge, and technology from foreign to local firms. Moreover, the local firms’ lack of professionalism hinders their performance, leading to a poor perception among the public. Lastly, the absence of research within the industry also results in a reliance on regulations, standards, materials and technology that are not suited to the local context, thus inhibiting development.

Strategies identified to build sustained capacity include increasing access to affordable financing, revising educational curricula and training to provide practical transferrable skills relevant to the industry's needs, enhancing industry collaboration, and investing in research and development. Previous efforts to build capacity in the industry lacked a cohesive and coordinated approach. Therefore, based on these insights, this research puts together a systematic and comprehensive framework for guiding the National Construction Authority in developing capacity building initiatives by emphasizing collaborative partnerships among the stakeholders. Lastly, the framework highlights four focus areas, as identified in the strategies, to emphasise the intended objectives, target impact areas, stakeholders responsible, and capacity level to be developed.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.