National Microfinance Bank PLC is Tanzania’s leading retail bank, with over 2 million customers and 175 branches. Opened in 2015, its new headquarters in Dar es Salaam’s business district is an architectural landmark of the city. With its cantilevers and coloured ceramic louvres, it is a striking building which reflects the optimism and aspirations of this vibrant and fast growing city.
With this project TECHO combined its long-term goal of establishing itself as a major player in the African commercial fit-out market with its expertise at furnishing the offices of large banking houses.
Transferring European Office Standards to Africa
The building is one of the few in Tanzania designed in the European style with open-plan offices, so the scope of the project was very similar to projects we have delivered in Europe. The challenge was the location, and the logistic problems this presented. Moreover, there is the lack of experience with regards to modern office equipment, and there is not the same appreciation of good quality products and after sales services. As the main architect for the NMB interiors, Alex Temu, says, furniture products in the Tanzanian market are generally of low quality. Taxes and duties make importation of furniture quite expensive, so the majority end up buying cheap versions from Asia. These three factors together - product quality, sensitive price and unprecedented logistics - made the project a comprehensive challenge for us in this developing and fast-growing market.
International Expertise and Strong Local Partnership
Tanzania is not the easiest country to deliver to, and to make life interesting we had containers of chairs arriving from South Korea, partitions from Romania and furnishings from the Czech Republic. In Africa well planned and managed logistics is almost more important than the quality of the products themselves. Without close working relationships with locals a project of this scale is just not possible. Selecting and setting up cooperation with local companies is therefore one of the key “skills” for doing business in Africa. As our project manager on site, Tomas Prihonsky, says, one of the great things about working in Africa is that whatever the problem, the locals will always find a solution. On this project too, our local workers and partners could be relied on to get the job done whatever obstacles where thrown their way. In our case it was Justin Hoon, MD of Regent Tanzania Ltd., who helped take the “fear” out of the project logistics.
The project for National Microfinance Bank in Tanzania is currently our largest project in Africa. Tanzania became the 90th country in which our products can be found. We won the tender in partnership with Royal Ahrend.
A major portion of the order comprised TECHO PARTITIONS produced in Romania. Local firm, Saheb High Glass, helped glaze the partitions. Cooperation with this company was excellent and the resulting partitions look perfect.
Installation was to have taken two months, but in the end it was split into stages and took almost a year. In October 2015 the building was officially opened in the presence of the president of Tanzania.