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Keith Salt

For many of us, a comfortable home is taken for granted. But that’s not the case everywhere in the world. ÅF in Vietnam is working on projects that help people in cities and elsewhere with basic needs such as electricity and water. Keith Salt, Chief Representative for ÅF in Hanoi, is an expert in water supply and distribution with many years’ experience of international work.

What can you tell us about the ÅF office in Hanoi?

“There are six of us who are permanently employed here, but we also recruit both local and international experts for our projects. Over the past few years our team has cooperated with various financial backers, authorities and international institutions to work on more than 30 projects in areas such as energy, water and the environment. One of the most important has been the Ho Chi Minh City Environmental Sanitation Project, where we have provided institutional strengthening to the city of Ho Chi Minh supporting the management and operation aspects of its projects to alleviate the damages caused by flooding, through the construction of pumping stations, sewerage and drainage pipelines, and canal refurbishments”.   

What is it like to work in Vietnam?

“Compared with Europe, the pace of development here is much more rapid. In many ways Vietnam resembles a smaller version of China. While the Vietnamese have come a long way in terms of developing entrepreneurship, there is still a sizeable legacy of Communist values. This mix, together with the diversity of nationalities in our project groups, means that it can be quite a challenge to foresee the kind of questions and problems that can crop up during a day’s work here.”

Do you enjoy working for ÅF?

“I do! It’s a very good company to work for. Everyone, regardless of what they do or their status in the corporate hierarchy, is friendly and willing to help. There’s a very strong work ethic here, and the ambition is always to deliver a result of the very highest quality.”

You have been living and working abroad for many years. Can you give a brief outline of your career?

“After university I was given the opportunity to work on water supply projects for a non-profit organisation and was stationed in Malawi in East Africa. After that I returned to Britain and spent 15 years working in the engineering department and then in corporate planning for a water supply company. During the drought and famine that blighted Ethiopia in 1984–1985 I worked as an advisor to OXFAM and later to WaterAid. In 1990 I found myself abroad once more, this time on behalf of a British consulting company , with whom I worked in a number of countries, including Swaziland, Thailand, India and Malaysia. By the time I joined ÅF seven years ago I had many years’ experience of managing water projects in developing countries. That is something that has stood me in very good stead for the work I’m doing today.”