Africa 'must grab construction opportunities now'

Johannesburg - The future of Africa will be unbuilt without the right transformation and if mind-sets and the general attitude do not change, according to Frans Pienaar, chair of Inyatsi Construction.

An unbuilt future means people focus on the present without considering the importance of a sustainable future in the construction industry, he explains. This includes exploring trends and innovative ways to stay relevant in the industry.

Pienaar warns that countries such as China and India will grab development opportunities if roleplayers on the continent do not act to ensure control of the future of Africa.

“While we wait and fight internally about smaller and sometimes petty issues, the rest of the world takes what is theirs for the taking, including development opportunities and investments in infrastructure, such as educational and development infrastructure," says Pienaar.
“Foreign direct investment will go to countries that embrace investment and actively seek investment, which makes it good business for the funding agencies.  While Africa focuses on internal problems and issues, these opportunities will pass us by.”

According to Pienaar, a special kind of transformation is needed in construction to prevent an unbuilt future.

“Unlike other industries, the engineering and construction sector has been slow to adopt new technologies and there was no major transformation in the industry. As a result, productivity has stagnated over the past 40 years, or in some cases, even declined,” he says.

Client bodies can help to alleviate this problem by embracing a new future and acting with political courage, in his view.

He calls on industry players to make courageous changes now instead of waiting for the political landscape to improve.

“Let’s not worry about 'what is in it for me', but rather worry about how quickly we can implement something that will benefit everyone. Do not blame the past. Build a new future that we can be proud of in a decade from now,” he says.

He points out that sustainability is increasingly becoming a requirement rather than simply a "desirable characteristic". The pursuit of sustainability is bound to affect both the construction process as well as the built asset itself.

"The construction sector produces an enormous amount of waste and therefore more efficient use and recycling of raw materials will offer huge potential benefits, even on a small scale," he says.

In his view, this problem is specific to Africa, because the cut-throat competition in the construction industry has forced construction companies on the continent to quickly evolve in a bid to match current demands and changing times.

“Existing and emerging trends are changing the construction industry in Africa more so than elsewhere, because we believe the nonsense from the rest of the world that they know better than us. We are the only long-term solution to Africa’s problems. Let’s step forward with courage and determine our future by implementing and not procrastinating,” he says.

"Technology has made impossible projects possible and, therefore, the construction industry must adapt to the latest technology that will see them increase productivity and profitability at the same time, while cutting cost."

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