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Kenyan Contractor Visits AGC

Andrew Clapham Senior Director of Design and Construction for Vulcan Inc.; Rehema Dida owner of Jara Construction Limited in Kenya; and Doug Freeman General Manager and part owner of Freeman Bell Construction & Development LLC.
One of the benefits of AGC membership is the networking opportunities it provides to contractors to meet with their peers and work cooperatively to improve the industry. Last week several AGC members had the unusual occasion to meet with a fellow contractor from out of town: Rehema Dida owner of Jara Construction Limited in Kenya.

Dida was in Seattle as part of the Vital Voices program an organization that identifies trains and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe. She met with AGC President Lee Kilcup CEO of GLY Construction; Andrew Clapham Senior Director of Design and Construction for Vulcan Inc.; Doug Freeman General Manager and part owner of Freeman Bell Construction & Development LLC; Dave Cook of Geo Engineers (representing Engineers without Borders); Craig Norsen of Seneca Group (representing Water First); Kari Vigerstol of the Nature Conservancy; Brad Hayes of Sellen Construction; and Leanne Cochran CEO of Cochran Electric.

The Seattle contractors and Dida compared and contrasted the business practices of their respective countries. For example in Kenya the large banks provide construction bonds as opposed to the system of specific bonding companies in the U.S.

A very important issue to me is subcontracting Dida told the AGC contractors. What I have learned and would like to take back and tell the government and other business leaders in Kenya is that we have to have a law that ties the subcontractor to the contractor. The way its done now its just a hand shake. It has to be better formalized.

Freeman gave Dida a description of the approach taken by ConsensusDOCS the contracts hammered out by AGC of America and other industry groups. AGC gave Dida copies of the documents to take home to Kenya as a starting point for her discussions with government officials and business leaders.

Greater due diligence regarding subcontractors is another area of need cited by Dida. It doesnt have to be as advanced as here but we have to have a better way to check the quality of their work and how they are doing.

Dida would also like to establish an organization of women owners in construction. Through this group we could help each other out work cooperatively and share ideas she said.

Dida was chosen to participate in Vital Voices because of her success as a business owner whose firm specializes in well drilling and road construction. One of her activities that garnered the notice of officials and her nomination to Vital Voices was the extraordinary steps she took to ensure the quality of the water of a well her firm drilled for a local village.

Jara Construction has built roads of more than 200 miles in length. Didas motivation for getting in the road-building business stems in part from personal tragedy. Her husband who died in a plane crash was a physician and Health Minister for the Kenyan Government. After his death the familys pharmacy business had to be closed and Dida needed to travel several times to the capital of Nairobi to settle his estate. The trip from our home to Nairobi was only 780 kilometers (484 miles) but it was often a three day trip Dida said in a recent interview at AGC offices. The roads in Kenya can be so bad and rough its very difficult.

During her Seattle stay Dida also visited the Gates Foundation a funder of the Vital Voices program. Other stops during the U.S. visit have been Washington DC New York City and San Jose.

Headquartered in Washington DC Vital Voices seeks to equip women with management business development marketing and communications skills to expand their enterprises help to provide for their families and create jobs in their communities.

Hilary Clinton helped establish the organization in 2000. Current board members include Carly Fiorina former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Managing Director of the World Bank. Vital Voices Honorary Chairs are Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R-KS). For more information on Vital Voices visit its website by clicking here.

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