Interview: Saleh Al Mazrouie
Which sectors do you believe will create greater construction activity in the short to medium term?
SALEH AL MAZROUIE: In recent years most investment and construction activity has been in the housing, health and education sectors. For example, a recent project constructed 5000 residences to provide affordable housing for Emiratis who meet the criteria. Furthermore, eight schools have been built across the emirate, and 21 more are being planned for construction. In the health sector, there are important hospitals opening, such as Sheikh Shakbout Medical City and the New Al Ain Hospital. Stakeholders such as labour workers, consultants and contractors create economic activity through their work, establishing their own procurement processes and tenders. As infrastructure is being developed, facilitating and encouraging other investments, it is in turn contributing to the economic development of the emirate.
The close relationship between the construction sector and the Department of Transport has facilitated collaboration on a variety of major projects. Through these projects, we have connected various parts of the city and the emirate, thereby improving the connectivity and mobility of the people living here.
How do you intend to implement technology tools, and how will they enhance productivity levels?
AL MAZROUIE: Technology has been developing fast but the construction sector has not progressed as much due to a lack of investment in research and development (R&D). This, in turn, has limited the expertise and know-how of workers in the industry. However, productivity within the construction sector needs to constantly be improved; business owners need to realise the need to employ manpower in a smarter manner, allocating resources more efficiently. The best way to do this is through using advanced technology and digital tools that already exist. For example, Musanada is working with Krypto Labs on developing a survey to improve cut and fill work without inspection. Through this partnership, we combine their research skills with our available data and statistics.
Having an in-house R&D department has also proven to be essential, as it allows for a more thorough analysis and optimisation of company activities, such as facilitating real-time oversight on projects. With the data collected, we also assist the government in making more well-informed decisions.
Lastly, the e-procurement system that we developed internally and launched recently allows contractors to bid on tenders online in an easy and transparent fashion, and creates bridges between stakeholders for them to interact and cooperate.
What opportunities exist to increase the participation of the private sector in the emirate’s infrastructure development plans?
AL MAZROUIE: Currently, the government is a major player in the local construction sector, ensuring liquidity in the market. However, some international players are also either in the market or in the process of entering, for example through joint ventures. This shows that there is increased confidence in the market and that there is opportunity for sustainable investment in Abu Dhabi. Joint ventures are common, because they combine the foreign expertise and technology with local manpower. This is a good method of obtaining know-how in a sustainable way.
On a separate note, an important result of having a greater collaboration with the private sector is the possibility for recent university graduates to begin their professional career through internships in private firms, from which they can receive valuable, real-life and hands-on experience. We are directly involved in facilitating internships through an initiative called Tamkeen. The success of this programme has been remarkable, and we are intent on providing this experience to a total of 500 graduates in the short term.
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