For Emmanuel Masebo, the construction industry business should be understood not only in the ‘financial business’ aspect – but rather construction as a responsibility to society.
This is how the 39-year old Masebo started narrating the story of how he started Mangalasi Construction some fifteen years ago at the age of 24. He had just graduated from Bunda College, then under the University of Malawi, but now under the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics.
“My whole life and passion was to do Engineering or Architecture at The Polytechnic of the University of Malawi [now MUBAS], or Irrigation Engineering at Bunda College. However, there was no intake into University that particular year. Therefore, when time came for entry into the University of Malawi, I ended up doing Agricultural Economics”, says Masebo.
But why the name Mangalasi?
Says Masebo: “This is our family name. And as a way of promoting the family name as a brand, I thought of registering the firm in the name of Mangalasi”,
He further says the biggest challenge affecting a lot of sectors of the Malawi economy is that a lot of people end up doing things that they do not have passion in.
“I can state here from the onset that I meet a lot of young graduates coming out of universities with degrees in engineering and other construction courses with no passion whatsoever in the construction industry. It has been a huge challenge for me as a construction industry player to run my projects with a team who do not have passion in what they do”, explains Masebo.
“For Mangalasi Construction, anyone I find out there with serious and honest passion for construction, I train them here at the company because that is very rare and difficult to get by”, challenges Masebo.
Having started on 17th September, 2007 in the then K5 Million Building and Civil Category with the National Construction Industry Council (NCIC), Mangalasi Construction has grown over the years to the Unlimited Category. And according to Masebo, who is Managing Director for Mandalasi Construction, the company has accumulated a lot of equipment and property required and needed in the construction business.
“Mangalasi has accumulated 2 JCBs, 9 tippers, 1 excavator, 1 drum roller and 4 crane mounts – among others. And over the 15 years we have been in operation, we have executed construction projects such as Ngara Community Technical College in Karonga; Naminjiwa Technical College in Phalombe; the Neno Youth Community Institute; and various dams for the Northern Region Water Board in Nkhata Bay”, outlined Masebo.
He adds that as Mangalasi, they are proud to have constructed the second largest irrigation dam in Malawi.
“We stand tall and with pride at Mangalasi because we are the ones who constructed the Chingali Irrigation Scheme dam in Nkhotakota district. The Chingali Dam is second only to the Bwanje Valley Dam, and it can hold up to 34 million cubic litres of water. It measures 63 by 40 metres”, narrates Masebo from the NRC ESCOM Sub-Station construction site where Mangalasi is constructing a floor for the ESCOM power sub-station.
But having been in the construction industry for about fifteen years, what lessons has Masebo picked up so far?
“The most important lesson for me is financial discipline. Every successful construction firm needs a lot of financial prudence in order to grow. It is not right for every payment you get should be diverted away from the core business activities of the construction firm’, says Masebo.
He added that other key lessons he has acquired so far is to manage relationships between contractors and financial institutions such as banks; having human capital development plans in place; as well as delivering high quality work on the ground.
“Construction business is a self-advertising business. Good quality work as the best advertising and marketing tool for any construction firm. As Mangalasi, we have stuck to this principle religiously throughout our existence. There are times when as a construction firm, we have rejected some works because we knew we would not execute high quality work due to factors outside our control. When such things happen, a good construction firm should be able to stand up and refuse to be exploited.
Looking forward, Masebo says he looks forward to a time when Mangalasi shall be the go-to name as far as any construction works are concerned in the country.
“Continuous growth and improvement is one of our key values. We would want to always stay ahead of everyone. That is why after noting that my skills alone may not be adequate to do some of the things for Mangalasi Construction, in 2016 I roped in a colleague – Lomqulo Gumbo, who is a Quantity Surveyor – as a partner in the business in order to have a wider knowledge perspective in as far as running a construction company is concerned”, says Masebo.