A retail jewel is rising steadily in Cameroon’s capital of Douala, with planned completion now less than a year away.
Doors are expected to open to shoppers at Douala Grand Mall in Q1 2020, a project that has captured the imagination of the capital’s residents. Turnkey hospitality and retail development specialist Raubex Renovo is constructing what will be Cameroon’s first modern shopping mall and the largest in central Africa.
The substantial €75 million phase 1 project is focused on a mall with a built floor area of 38.474 m2 and 18,446 m2 of lettable retail on two levels. It includes a convention centre and cinemas, and is the first phase of an ambitious plan that looks forward to incorporating a five-star hotel, offices and residential apartments. The project’s positive outlook is enhanced by its sizeable catchment area of about 1,5 million people.
By March 2019, construction was 60% complete. An early priority of the construction programme was to get the main structure closed up and watertight before the rainy season starts at the end of May. This includes the completion of the main structure with its associated waterproofing activities and the application of façades. Once this has been done, attention will be on all the inside services and finishes.
As important has been the considerable effort invested in completing the exterior earthworks and services. Once the rainy season starts, certain of these activities are rendered impractical. The rainfall in the country can be up to 700 mm per month from July to November. As with many projects in tropical regions with high rainfall, it has been essential that the construction programme takes the climate into account. For an experienced contractor, detailed advance planning with these factors in mind is essential.
Key to the progress to date has been the scheduling of activities in appropriate order, while remaining uncompromising on the quality of works. This has applied across a range of tasks, which are currently focused on structural steel installation on the first floor and roof levels, substructure installation to the perimeter façade closure, and construction and concrete placement on the first floor. Installation of services and external works are on well on programme and within expectations.
Logistics have presented a major challenge during the project and is a factor that has had to be carefully managed to mitigate against extended delays.
With its experience on projects in various parts of Africa, Raubex Renovo has been able to carefully monitor progress and respond to any delays with flexibility. When an unanticipated delay occurred with the shipment of structural steel to site, the contractor adjusted the construction programme with an acceleration of activities. This ensured that the time lost would be made up as quickly as possible.
The flexible pace of the project has not diminished the outstanding safety performance. Safety on site is an important cornerstone on all Raubex Renovo projects. The company’s track record can be attributed to constant focus on safe work practices and risk mitigation across all aspects of the project.
Daily safety briefings, commonly known on site as ‘Toolbox Talks’, ensure that everyone on site understands their tasks and the potential risks. Training is also an important factor in ensuring safe work and this extends to all parties that are working on the project.
Safety – like quality workmanship – is closely controlled among employees and sub-contractors alike. This goes hand-in-hand with training and knowledge transfer, as Raubex Renovo’s intention is to leave a level of sustainable skills within the local workforce.
Subcontractors on the project are Cameroonian companies, who are overseen by the Raubex Renovo management. Skilled artisans in the Raubex Renovo team also engage in training workers from the local community to ensure skills are effectively transferred during construction. This helps build the pool of skills that can contribute to subsequent construction projects in the area.
With every passing week of progress in the building, the looming scale and profile of the Douala Grand Mall is eliciting more excitement from the public. This bodes well for the future customer support that this ground breaking development can expect. The capital city of Cameroon will certainly be raising the bar for its neighbours in the region, and taking an important step in attracting more tourists and business-people.