Chihota rides on his dreams
Ruth Butaumocho Gender Profile
Growing up in Mhondoro, Tamuka Chihota was an intelligent and astute young boy who dreamt of becoming an engineer. With no mentor within sight, nor a relative who was in the field, Tamuka (33) nurtured his dream through gleaning written material on the profession. Although at one time he temporarily switched his passion to law, his first love for engineering was never lost in the confusion.
Decades after identifying his passion, he is not far off the mark.
Tamuka now runs a fully fledged construction company, Frontline Contracting.
“What I am doing is close to what I have always wanted to do,” he revealed in an interview. “I am still retracting my footsteps, and I am now a happy man.”
From very humble beginnings, Tamuka has defied the odds through sheer determination, to pitch his brand among the biggest construction and civil engineering companies in Zimbabwe.
Formed in 2014, Frontline Contracting does civil works and construction.
It is a fast growing infrastructure services company that is redefining the future of construction through smart, sustainable and cost effective solutions.
Though only three years old, Frontline Contracting is now in the C category of the Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association (ZBCA) where it has acquitted itself well in the construction sector.
Since its formation, the company has worked on several projects for reputable companies, among them the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority, Grain Marketing Board, MBCA and electrical rewiring for one of Old Mutual’s projects.
Frontline also constructed hostels at Westwood High School and classroom blocks at Ruvheneko Primary School in Ruwa, wading off stiff competition from other serious contenders in the construction sector.
For Tamuka, wading off competition was not that difficult, having learnt one or two tricks in the construction sector during the short stint he worked in Dubai and the three years he spent working for a local construction company in the human resources department.
“It was while I was working for a construction company in Dubai that I learnt some of the good work ethics that I have been implementing in some of the projects,” he revealed. “That was also the time that I resolved to start my own construction company.”
After returning home in 2012, having learnt a lot from the construction firm that specialised in technological construction, Tamuka yearned to broaden his knowledge in the sector.
He joined a local construction company, where he worked in the human resources department.
Though he was not in the field, Tamuka took every opportunity he would get to learn as much on the operations of the construction sector.
“I was working to learn as opposed to working to earn,” said the entrepreneur who has a degree in social sciences.
After working for the local construction firm for three years, Tamuka knew it was time to pack his bags.
“I was now my own man,” he said. “What I had learnt was enough to give me the wings to fly.”
Armed with the hands-on experience and good workmanship in the construction sector, Tamuka tendered his resignation and registered Frontline Contracting in 2014.
With no money in the bank, no construction equipment, let alone a workforce to give credence to his company, Tamuka was not deterred.
He was convinced that he would measure up to the task, once he got an opportunity to implement his expertise.
He got a lifeline when he landed his first contract with Old Mutual.
Tamuka, who was still a novice then in the sector, said the Old Mutual project proved to be a litmus test for the newly formed outfit.
“It was very demanding and required a lot of coordination as we were working at places where clients were in occupation,” he said.
“We were new in the industry and we were afraid of failing.”
When Old Mutual endorsed the company’s workmanship, Tamuka and his team were elated.
That marked the beginning of a journey that Tamuka is still walking to this day.
Tamuka has since worked on a number of projects that have set him on the pedestal for success.
Despite the progress that Frontline Contract has made, the company claims there are many hurdles in the way.
Tamuka says lack of technological innovation is among the greatest challenges that companies in the construction sector are facing in addition to access to finance to fund projects.
“Our equipment is archaic,” he said. “There is not much effort in trying to tap into the new construction methods.
“You hardly see cranes in Zimbabwe, which indicates that there is not much construction taking place. The construction sector is currently operating below 30 percent because of funding challenges for major projects.
“Lack of skills due to brain drain and obsolete training facilities are some of the problems besetting the sector.”
Tamuka also noted with concern that the emergence of “tenderpreneurship”, where middlemen were winning tenders was affecting operations within the sector.
Despite all these challenges, Tamuka says the future looks bright.
“The future is so bright it burns my eyes to quote Oprah Winfrey,” said Tamuka. “We see possibility all over. Africa’s demographic dividend will come through creating a huge market for our products and services. Infrastructure is the backbone for economic growth and our prospects can only be brighter.”
Tamuka is planning to grow Frontline Contracting from the current two branches.
“We are looking at increasing branches regionally, as well as deepen our presence in local markets,” he said. “However, we will remain lean inside to minimise bureaucracy.
“Already we have invaded South Africa and we are weighing possibilities of entering Zambia and other countries in Sadc as part of our growth strategy.”
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