Cultural aspects of Construction Project Management practices – a Ugandan perspective

University essay from KTH/Fastigheter och byggande

Abstract: Africa is experiencing a rapid urbanisation and the major cities of the continent are currently the fastest growing cities in the world. This phenomenon is especially visible in Kampala, Uganda; which is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. The rapid development, with people moving from rural to the urban areas, poses new challenges and opportunities for the construction sector which has become the second largest employer in Uganda. However, the construction sector is still young and developing. To contribute to the development of the sector, this thesis set out to be a study of construction project management practices in the country. Field studies were conducted in Kampala to explore the current practices of project managers active in the construction industry. The findings from the field studies where later analysed and compared with secondary data collected on Western construction management practices. Project management is a well standardised practice that has established itself as a vital component of construction projects in the Western part of the world. The theories and practices mostly originate from USA and the U.K and rely on stable settings of social environment, politics and economy. Standards are accepted and followed by the majority of practitioners in the Western part of the world. However, if these theories are valid and applicable in Africa has been questioned. Therefore, the research aimed towards finding how Western theories and practices of construction management have been adapted by the Ugandan industry. Furthermore, study whether the practices of Ugandan managers could be improved with implementation of Western construction management methods. The study found that the profession of project management in the Ugandan construction industry are relatively new but is getting more and more established and appreciated. The mentality within the construction sector is, to a wide extent, orientated towards short term benefits. Clients’ interests in maximising short term profits often result in quality issues. This correlates with the troublesome past of Uganda and the scattered poverty; people are trying in any way to make as much money as possible. The issue involves a large scale of corruption in the construction industry, where even governmental officials are involved. The construction sector has problems regarding lacking competence of actors. Combined, these issues are affecting the quality outcomes of projects and make them difficult to manage. Western construction management theories and practices are adapted by Ugandan managers, however, to a minimal extent in terms of complexity to fit, what is believed to be, the development level of the industry. Actors are micromanaged with a task-oriented mentality and separated though hierarchic boundaries. Projects are divided between several actors usually completing their part individually which lead to inconsistencies and managerial problems. We believe there is urgent need of education within professions in the industry in order to raise the overall competence. Regulations and standardisations regarding construction and employment policies need to be implemented starting from government level. Actors need to co-operate, learn from each other and grow together.

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