BATUK is the Ministry of Defence’s permanent training support unit in Nanyuki, Kenya, playing a vital role in UN missions demonstrating the UK’s global commitment to peacekeeping.
For this base to provide demanding training exercises to units deploying on high-readiness operations, the MoD recruited Tetra Tech for the delivery of a wide range of infrastructure consultancy services.
A critical base for UK troops deploying on high-readiness tasks
Working conditions defy the ideal in Nanyuki, a little market town alongside the equator.
Its location circa 200km from Nairobi imposes logistical challenges for construction materials and availability of skilled workforce. Moreover, local construction standards differ significantly from the UK’s robust building practices and safe and standard operating procedures.
Yet, our multidisciplinary team overcame these challenges in its technical support the BATUK Infrastructure Development Plan (BIDP). This work fed into the wider BATUK Infrastructure Development Programme, an investment into several infrastructure redevelopment projects supporting UK military capability in Africa.
Given that most UK Armed Forces personnel outside the UK currently train or undertake operations at BATUK, the value from this project was immense. Each year, the UK deploys short-term military training teams to BATUK to build the capacity of national military forces, ensuring several states across Africa can respond to security threats, including terrorism, illegal wildlife trade, human rights violations, and emerging humanitarian crises.
There was just one wrinkle: delivering in such a remote and rural part of Kenya presented significant logistical, capability, and capacity challenges.
The challenge of delivering in a remote environment
To get it done, our project team of fifteen (primarily UK expats) partnered with local Kenyan support staff and drivers, supervising two separate contractors delivering the programme for the DIO. Throughout this process, all infrastructure delivery had to meet both safety and technical UK standards within the DIO budget.
Over 700 local Kenyan operatives and supply chains were employed and managed onsite by our deployed team in Kenya, where procuring necessary materials poses greater difficulties than usual.
“You can’t pop down the road to get materials,” said Andrew Wall, Director, Tetra Tech. “You have to import it, which creates a time delay and you have to mitigate risks early so you can get over that curb.”
International equipment and materials needed shipping via Mombasa, onto Nairobi, and then to Nanyuki. Our team also lent support to the administration of air freight from the UK to Nairobi and onto the site.
An infrastructure programme of this scale, however, inevitably suffers the risk of bribery and corruption. To overcome these systemic challenges, we became experienced in working with Kenyan Ministries and shipping routes as well as all team members undergoing the company’s required Anti Bribery and Corruption training.
Better living conditions for UK troops
Despite the risks, the programme has ultimately triumphed as a significant accomplishment for logistical, technical and management capability. BATUK now provides safer and comfortable facilities for Armed Forces personnel to live, work, and train in, while also providing international standard accommodation to humanitarian causes.
The new infrastructure provisions include roads, footpaths and parking, portable water, single-living accommodation, equipment support buildings, stores, physical and recreational training centres, a combined medical and dental centre, enhanced security and more.
Upskilling local workers
Along the way, the project has also greatly benefitted the local economy, helping to better the lives of thousands of Kenyans, including local workers onsite who developed lifelong skills in delivery of infrastructure.
Valuable lessons on aligning local practices with UK standards
Working abroad for extended periods of time allowed our colleagues to experience a new culture and environment, learning valuable lessons on aligning local practices with UK standards. The DIO itself praised the Tetra Tech team for their outstanding effort and technical support.
Andrew said: “We implemented some great duty of care and welfare processes to look after the team whilst deployed and embrace the full experience of working in such an environment. We took on a lot of challenges and activities in our downtime away from work like climbing Mount Kenya, Mountain Biking and outdoor activities all in line with robust DoC procedures”.
Craig Hatch, Managing Director, Tetra Tech, said: “We are proud of the high performance of our team in a very remote part of Africa. The response of employees to the recruitment campaign and the recruitment of key subject matter experts played an instrumental role in turning this challenging programme around.”