Back to the Future
By Sayed Aziz Azimi
The completion of Technologists, Inc.’s 50th project in Afghanistan in July 2012 got me thinking not only about where Ti started but where we are going. I founded this company in 1999 as an energy and information-technology engineering and management consulting company serving clients like the U.S. department of energy and other government agencies. When I took Ti to Afghanistan in 2004 my initial intent was to work in the energy-efficiency sector. I had no idea that we would undertake five projects, let alone the 50 we have now finished for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Agency for International Development, and numerous other clients. As we move forward, I intend to build on Ti’s success in Afghanistan by returning to our roots in development, technology transfer, and capacity building. I am confident that we can do this by diversifying our service offerings, expanding our client base, and enlarging our geographic area of operations.
Diversifying Our Services
In the past several years Ti has expanded its capabilities in the fields of social and economic development. Our development projects typically match international expert advisors with local counterparts in business, government, and civil society. The end product is the transfer of knowledge and expertise, as Ti technical advisors share modern engineering techniques and international best practices in delivering essential services like clean water, safe roads, public-health protection, and others. Social and economic development is a growth industry worldwide and will remain so for decades. Fortunately, our extensive expertise in engineering and management, plus our unsurpassed capability in capacity building, make Ti a logical partner for large international development firms seeking to expand in many new markets.
Development experts have long recognized the connection between stability and the provision of local services, on the one hand, and the legitimacy of government, on the other. Citizens rightly expect their governments to protect them from violence and to provide the critical infrastructure they need to live healthy and productive lives. In countries like Afghanistan, for example, foreign donors like USAID design stability projects that help local governments provide the services citizens need most. The result is increased legitimacy for local officials and a vastly decreased appeal of violence and extremism.
In many parts of the developing world, improving access to affordable energy and clean water is a prerequisite to economic growth. Building on our expertise in the energy and water sectors, Ti has partnered with several industry leaders to compete for projects that will renovate and modernize Afghanistan’s energy and water sectors, provide technical assistance to relevant ministries, and train the next generation of Afghan power and water engineers.
Workforce development is another major contributor to economic modernization. Countries that invest in workforce training and capacity building maximize their opportunities to use natural resources efficiently, to develop trade and manufacturing, and to create new jobs for skilled workers. In 2012 Ti joined a global team assembled by the international firm World Learning, which recently won an Indefinite Quantity Contract from USAID for the FORECAST II Participant Training program. The program gives USAID missions rapid access to expert trainers in higher education, workforce development, youth programs, and leadership development. Ti will initially serve as team leader for Afghanistan, and will seek to expand into other countries as appropriate opportunities emerge.
Expanding Our Client Base
Ti is proud to call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers its primary client. An important part of Ti’s growth strategy has been to expand our client base by seeking work procured through what is called the host country contract modality, where the contracting agency may be an organization like the Afghan Reconstruction and Development Services (ARDS), or a multidonor repository with oversight by international agencies and multilateral organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and others. In December 2011, for example, Ti won a contract from the German Development Bank (KfW) to design and build a key highway connecting Kunduz and Khulm in northern Afghanistan, and we expect more awards to follow from other important new clients.
Enlarging Our Area of Operations
Among the keys to Ti’s success in Afghanistan are our unsurpassed knowledge of local conditions and our expertise working in challenging and remote locations. Ti plans to build on those strengths by seeking work in bordering countries like Pakistan and former Soviet states like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Beyond its immediate neighborhood, Ti has established offices in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and in Dubai, United Arab Emirates to pursue regional opportunities there and in Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, and in other parts of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. Ti is also pursuing opportunities in the Horn of Africa. In 2011 Ti rebuilt a road destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, demonstrating our ability to operate far beyond Afghanistan in quite different cultural and geographic conditions.
Whatever challenges the future may bring, I am confident that Ti is ready to meet them by returning to our roots, adhering to our high standards, and delivering our very best for every client.