As a landlocked country, the development of roads is crucial for Uganda’s continued economic development. Local contractor BCR has constructed more than 4,000km of road in the East African state. The company has also expanded into the areas of building construction and tile making. Baguma Crescent Rusoke, Managing Director of BCR says his company is open to partnerships, adding that BCR has good track record and the experience: “Once we are given the jobs, there is no doubt that we can do anything.”
Kindly tell us about your professional background, and what led you here.
I started this company with my wife Dorothy in 2000. We started by importing and exporting goods from the US and Dubai. Eventually, we began to import machinery which has been a passion of mine for a long time. I used to ride trucks and heavy machines owned by my grandfather with whom I shared a lot of the same interests. He was very gifted with his hands; very inventive.
My father used to work for a road construction company. My passion for the transport of heavy equipment grew as I watched him at work.
What is it about heavy machinery that you find most appealing? What made you passionate about it?
My passion is really about doing or starting something, and seeing it to the end—something that lasts. If it is about repairing a truck, it will go from point A to point B successfully. If it is about building a road and you do it right, it will stand the test of time. The same thing is true when you build a bridge and a building. These are things that last. That is what fuels my interests and drive.
How would you comment on the importance of the road sector? How is this company contributing to the development of road infrastructure in Uganda?
Roads form the backbone of the economy. Without them, it is almost impossible to have economic growth. It allows for the movement of people, goods, products and technology. Good roads lower the cost of business. It affords businesses access to affordable labour. It would reduce transport costs and time. It paves the way for the development of the country as services are brought closer to the communities.
Roads are especially crucial to land-locked countries like Uganda. We need internal transport to take goods to the ports where they can be loaded on vessels and distributed to the rest of the world.
What are your thoughts on the government's efforts to further develop the roads?
The government has increased its efforts on roadwork and maintenance; accelerating infrastructure development in roads has been highlighted as one of the government’s key priorities for this financial year. By expanding access to several parts of the country, the country is able to expedite development to all members of society.
Roads allow people to transport their goods, access other areas for employment, healthcare, and education.. By identifying infrastructure development as part of the budget strategy and a key priority area the government comprehends how crucial the development of roads is.
Can you tell us about your projects? How many kilometers of road have you done so far?
The longest road that we have done was from Fort Portal-Bundibugyo-Lamia road (about 94 kilometres). The road was in a difficult terrain as it cuts along the contours of Mt. Rwenzori and continues into the Rift Valley through Semuliki Plains. As such, the roads were very narrow and the only vehicles that could manage the terrain at that time were pickup trucks. Our work on this project was to widen the road, establish road alignments and construct the road base from clay-cotton soils & river-marsh pathways into firm all-terrain gravel roads. One of the main purposes of the project was to establish a road network to enable oil exploration in the Semuliki valley.
The shortest road project we have undertaken was tarmacking of Fort Portal municipality road; 2 kilometres. Currently we are working on the road from Soroti, Serere through to Kumi, which is about 102 kilometres.
We have had the opportunity to handle a variety of road projects. All in all, we have worked on more than 4,000 kilometres since we have started.
What makes this company so special?
Our experience is one of the key areas that makes our company special. We have had the opportunity to work on a variety of road projects in varying terrains with a lot of success. The experience we have gained has enabled us to continuously build on the quality and delivery of our work. Apart from road construction, we have constructed dams and bridges that continue to stand the test of time. Furthermore, our company has been able to provide services during disasters such as the Bududa landslides.
How many dams have you built so far?
We have built 2 dams, about 9 years ago, in Karamoja region. The region is mainly arid land and the dams constructed are still there and functioning well to this day.
How would you describe your relationship with the government?
We have a good working relationship with the government who are our main partners. Our company has been in the construction business for more than a decade, working with the government.
Have you worked with the private sector, as well?
Yes, we constructed roads for the tea companies in Fort Portal at a private capacity.
BCR offers freight and household goods transportation services for organizations, agencies and individuals. In the past we have undertaken transportation services for tea companies, moving their commodities from Fort Portal – Kampala – Mombasa.
Can you tell us a bit more about the technology that you are using?
All our trucks and machineries are from the US. We chose the US as our key technological partner because they have fantastic and long-lasting machines that do the job well.
What sets you apart from the other indigenous companies?
We take the smaller, more local jobs because of funding reasons. We only take on jobs that see through to the end. That way, we do not compromise on quality. We always do the best that we can. We believe that our experience and quality of work over the years has enabled us to be able to be successful in the jobs we bid for.
We understand that you have diversified into other areas of business, as well. Can you tell us more about them?
BCR tries to support the whole industry. We have 3 lines of businesses—tile-making, road construction, and building construction.
We are in partnership with other sister companies to produce eco-friendly tiles. We use materials such as recyclable plastics. These tiles are light, water-resistant, and very durable.
The other side of our company is focused on the construction of buildings and other structures. We focus more on housing however we have been able to diversify further into other structures. Currently we are building a hangar for the Ministry of Defense (MOD). We have also done airport lightings as well as built parking yards for Uganda National Roads Authority.
From which business segment does most of your income come from?
It mostly comes from our road construction business, but all the companies support one another.
We understand that you also have an asphalt plant.
Yes, we do have an asphalt plant. We have a quarry, water blasters (for stone surface cleaning), cranes, and generators in the quarries, as well as other specialised equipment.
People are integral to any business. How would you describe employment arrangement in your company?
Our employment arrangement is seasonal; however, we have permanent engineers. My daughter Eileen Baguma a masters graduate from the London School of Economics (LSE) in the UK, joined us having worked with Diageo UK previously. She setup our human resource systems prior to joining a petroleum exploration firm in Uganda. She consults for the company on an ad hoc basis. We find people who are suitable for that job at that particular time. After all, in construction, you cannot keep people at the same place. Each project has its own set of requirements. For example, some jobs may require a surveyor, while others do not. Different professions exist to accomplish different things at different times. Since we have been in the business for over a decade, we have been able to keep records of a variety of professionals who are essential to our business so that we call on them whenever needed.
How many tenders are you doing at the moment?
At the moment, we have about 3 with UNRA, 1 with the Ministry of Defence, and 1 with MTN.
What are your thoughts on country branding campaigns?
I think that initiatives like that will serve to open up Uganda to the rest of the world. People will know what we have, and what we are doing. A lot of things are happening in the country, but they are not known. Publishing something like this should highlight the progress that we have made, and the things that can be expected of us. People will know about the opportunities that exist in Uganda. This should attract more investors and tourists. Entrepreneurs interested in partnering with local companies should take advantage of the opportunities that we have in the country.
What makes BCR a good local partner in Uganda?
Our knowledge of the industry landscape is key to making BCR a good local partner. An international partner would be able to benefit from our vast experience and knowledge of the industry while learning more about Uganda. The sharing of experiences and knowledge is key to building lasting working relationships; local or international.
What are your thoughts on promoting the local construction industry?
We would like to encourage and support the local contractors and the local industry, so that they can grow. By doing this, we benefit the domestic economy by building the capacity of the local industry through sharing our experience. When local contractors have a project in an area, they hire locals to do certain jobs. This gives communities employment, and introduces an economic activity that would positively change their situation. There will be a trickle-down effect. That is why we would like to empower the local contractors.
We need to look beyond cost, and think about quality and effect that job will have to the community.
What challenges do you face as a local contractor?
It all has to do with the price wars, and certain companies unrealistically lowering their pricing point. It is not easy to compete from that angle.
What message would you like to the readers of USA Today?
BCR General is open to partnerships. We have a good track record. We have the experience. Once we are given the jobs, there is no doubt that we can do anything.
Bcr is a good Company.
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