LOCALLY-OWNED LYMA Consulting Engineers made history in July this year as part of a consortium that was awarded the lucrative M445 million contract for the design and construction supervision of the Polihali Dam for the next 18 months.
While the involvement of locals has in the past been mostly been limited to just provision skills as employees, LYMA Consulting Engineers broke new ground as part of the consortium that won the biggest tender awarded so far in the Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
Business Journal (BJ) Reporter, Bereng Mpaki, recently spoke to LYMA Director and Head of Engineering, Thabo Mathibeli (TM), on this momentous breakthrough for local businesses and below are excerpts of the interview.
BJ: Who are LYMA Consulting Engineers?
TM: LYMA is a Lesotho registered consulting company, specialising in advisory services in the construction industry. We are currently focusing on civil and structural engineering consultancy. This includes buildings, roads and storm water, water and sanitation including sewer installations.
Our clients are in the public and private sectors in Lesotho.
The company was established in 2008 by three local engineers who came together to share their skills. The three are Sekhoane Lithakong, Mohapi Jessie and myself. All three of us are professional engineers with degrees in civil engineering from various universities.
We are all Basotho directors with an almost equal shareholding. The company is 100% Basotho-owned.
LT: Which are the notable projects that LYMA has previously been involved in?
TM: We are a relatively young but ambitious company. Currently we are engaged in two private developments which we cannot divulge since they are still at a sensitive and confidential stage.
One notable engagement was in the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) projects for the construction of public clinics across the country. This was under sub-consultancy and partnering arrangements with other Basotho consultants.
Of course, the LHWP is our biggest to date and we believe this is an opportunity for the local sector as a whole.
BJ: How did LYMA come to be part of Matla A Metsi JV consortium?
Matla A Metsi JV consists of GIBB (from South Africa), Mott MacDonald (UK and SA), Trectabel (France) and ourselves.
All of us have experience in the previous phase of the LHWP.
For instance, I worked at the Mohale Dam from the beginning until its completion. Ntate Lithakong also worked at the dam during supervision, and Ntate Jessie worked at the LHDA head office. Our CVs speak for themselves. Foreign companies looking for solid experience noticed us for this reason. Our experience also exposed us to valuable business networks outside the country. All our foreign partners have experience in these projects as well. That’s how we were able to get into a relationship.
For instance, Trectabel were the specialist design engineers for Katse Dam, GIBB have just completed Metolong Dam as lead engineers. Mott MacDonald has a long history of tunneling during Katse and ‘Muela projects.
BJ: How much stake does LYMA has in the consortium?
TM: We have seen media reports saying we have 18% of the contract and I don’t know how this was derived. Government and the LHDA insisted on certain minimum stake for all competing consortia. This was to allow Basotho companies meaningful participation in the project. So, what I can tell you is that we have a minimum of 15 percent shares in the consortium.
BJ: Have local companies been involved in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project at this level before?
TM: Skilled Basotho have been involved in the project in the past but not at this level. This is because the LHDA reviewed the conditions to allowed greater participation of locals and we believe this is a good development.
So, for us to be commanding a minimum of 15 percent in a consortium tasked with the job of designing and construction supervision of the Polihali Dam, it is the first time it is happening in this country.
BJ: What does it mean to LYMA to be part of the big contract to design the Polihali dam?
TM: LYMA is very proud to be part of this project. This country has objectives to develop and retain world-class skills when this project is complete. Some of us were trained under the auspices of the project in our formative years as professionals. Seeing that it is possible to participate in this project at a higher level is beyond belief.
BJ: How is your involvement in this contract likely to impact on the company’s future prospects?
TM: On the business side, it is not a straightforward certainty to predict the future, especially in terms of profitability and such things.
However, this project will strengthen our profile for future prospects. We have aspirations to go international in future and this project will enhance our profile so that we can compete outside the country.
BJ: How has LYMA contributed to Lesotho’s economic development?
TM: All companies pay taxes but for us this is not the end. Skills development is central to what we want to contribute ultimately. Poor countries need to focus more on developing the national human capital in order to compete on the global stage. Lesotho is at a unique stage in its history to capitalise on a project such as the LHWP. As we grow, we will invest more in developing the technical skills of Basotho.
For now, though we will begin with meaningful job creation. We will strive to employ as many locals as the project allows us to make an immediate impact.
BJ: When will the implementation of the Polihali contract begin?
TM: We are still mobilising and we hope to be ready by the beginning of October this year.