A book chronicling the first 25 years of FBW Group’s history and its growth into a major East African architecture, planning and engineering business has been published. In this latest excerpt from ‘Building East Africa’s Future’ we look at the company’s development through the 1990s.
The end of the 1990s saw several significant milestones for FBW Group as it continued its East African adventure. They included the opening of its first Ugandan office in Kampala in 1998. Today its group headquarters remain in the capital.
Along with that move into Uganda came the recruitment of more talent to support the business’ ambitious growth plans.
Architect Paul Moores is FBW’s managing director and is based in Kampala. He joined the business in 1998. Today Paul is responsible for all group activities and business development and is the primary contact for FBW Group globally.
Paul arrived in Uganda from Manchester after answering an advert in an architectural magazine. Looking for an opportunity to work outside the UK he was attracted by Geoff Wilks and Antoni Folker’s vision and the potential he saw in East Africa.
Paul says: “Going to Uganda to set up a new business was an adventure with a lot of potential. It really appealed.”
He recalls the early days in Kampala, with FBW’s first base in the back room of his house. Later it would move to a converted garage. “Our first proper office,” he says.
Reflecting on the way the business has grown from those humble beginnings, he adds: “We’ve been here 25 years. This is a region we know, and we understand. There are differences between the countries of East Africa and that is an important factor.”
Stuart Harley, who is now group chief operational officer, arrived at FBW around the same time. He was originally a member of FBW’s team in Tanzania and played a hands-on role in its move to Uganda, as this picture highlights.
It shows Stuart and a friend from the UK about to embark on an epic journey of more than 1,400 kilometres to Kampala in his Toyota land cruiser, filled with equipment from the Dar es Salaam office, including its photocopier.
The road trip, which took in the landscape and wildlife of East Africa, took more than eight days in the vehicle, which also had three spare tyres and 200 litres of fuel in jerrycans onboard, plus a homemade canvas roof tied to its bodywork.
Stuart says: “It was a great adventure; the views were amazing and the roads terrible. We also got some raised eyebrows at border crossings when they saw what we were carrying.”
The going was tough, but despite the rough terrain, the cargo landed safely in Uganda, apart from one minor mishap, a crack on the glass of the photocopier.
Stuart recalls: “The thin line caused by the crack became something of an FBW signature on the documents we sent out!”