The integrated delivery model is the best means of realising complex, multidisciplinary projects in Africa timeously, says AECOM Civil infrastructure MD Darrin Green. This is primarily because the market in Africa is less mature and project developers frequently have to deal with challenges when looking for financing.
He notes that, while design, build, finance, and operate (DBFO) is AECOM’s global project-delivery model, the relatively nascent civil engineering industries in Africa means that no single entity is able to provide the entire DBFO scope. Thus, partnering with entities that are able to offer some of those services is necessary.
“We cannot necessarily bring the financing, operations or the building side to bear on all projects. However, we are engaged in very deliberate partnering with select contractors and financiers to provide all-inclusive packages for clients while acting as a . . . point of contact.” The major advantage for clients is that it centralises risk.
“While the African market is not necessarily mature enough yet in all instances for a full DBFO approach, we are aligning ourselves with AECOM globally, albeit in a slightly different way. . . we have a full service offering on the design side, with our key differentiator being that we are linking up on the build and finance side and, in some cases, on the operational side,” Green elaborates.
As an example of this approach, he points to one of the biggest projects that AECOM is undertaking – the construction supervision of the $1.5-billion Tema Port expansion project, in Ghana, for container terminal operator Meridian Port Services. AECOM is providing the design and procurement management services prior to the award of construction contracts, following which it will supervise the actual construction.
The project started in October 2016, with completion expected towards the end of 2019. At its peak, 70 people will work on site, of whom 55 will be Ghanaians. “While high-level management is being carried out from South Africa, we have a fully fledged project team on the ground,” Green adds.
Another flagship project of AECOM in Africa is the Itare dam, in Kenya, which will have a capacity of 100 000 m3/d, for the Rift Valley Water Services Board. The project, currently still in the design phase, also highlights AECOM’s unique approach to project financing. “A key differentiator for us here is a more integrated delivery model,” Green adds. AECOM is partnering with Italian contractor CMC, with which it has a long-standing relationship, and is assisting in Italian export financing to implement the project.
Green points out that the major deficit in civil infrastructure in Africa presents significant opportunities for AECOM, which sees the bulk of its growth coming from the rest of the continent.
East Africa is a growth area, particularly Kenya and Uganda, while proximal countries, like Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique, present their own opportunities. “We are seeing quite a bit of growth in West Africa, in . . . the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Senegal,” he notes.
He says the traditional model of deploying expatriates to run projects at country offices is no longer sustainable. Therefore, AECOM aims to grow businesses in those countries, owned by AECOM, but staffed by local people. “As our home base is South Africa, local knowledge and connections are extremely important in terms of market intelligence.”
The biggest need is for basic infrastructure, with power generation, transmission and distribution key drivers for economic growth, followed by transport, as well as water and wastewater treatment. AECOM’s progressive approach towards Africa ensures that the company will be well placed to take advantage of such opportunities.
Green notes the intention is to move out into Africa and be on the ground: “We are prepared to put feet on the ground and are putting entities in place in focus countries. That does not preclude partnering with local businesses, even in those countries where we have established entities.”
With significant medium-term growth unlikely in South Africa, owing to a combination of political and economic uncertainty, Green reiterates that AECOM’s future growth will continue to be derived from Africa.