International consultancy and construction company Mace has released its latest tender cost update for sub-Saharan Africa, showing mixed performances for the region’s two most prominent economies.
The new report, published on Friday, shows swiftly diverging fortunes for South Africa and Kenya, as changes in the political context drive the markets in different directions.
South Africa is still struggling with uncertainty. The government is stuck between two contradictory objectives – reforming the economy to give confidence to investors and maintaining popular support in the run up to the 2019 election.
While slightly recovered from the dismal growth of 2017, the 1.5% South African gross domestic product (GDP) growth anticipated this year is unlikely to fuel a significant recovery in construction demand, says Mace.
More widely, sub-Saharan Africa will see many factors sustain strong average growth over the next five years.
The tailwinds of rising commodity prices, robust Chinese investment and strong pipelines, and the pull of significant infrastructure needs combine to sustain high demand for construction across the continent.
In Kenya, the successful transfer of power following recent elections has renewed confidence in the government, long-term economic stability and, consequently, its markets. As the construction market heats up, the main challenge will be finding financing as the government battles high public debt.
At 5.5%, Kenyan GDP growth is forecast to be well above the sub-Saharan average this year and is expected to remain strong, trending at just under 6% for the medium term.
“With Kenyan construction projects being won in the renewed confidence after the elections, tender prices are recovering to pre-election levels. However, we believe the real acceleration will be seen in 2019 when work won after the election comes through to market,” Mace MD Simon Herd says.
Slower inflation this year allowed the central bank to lower interest rates by 0.5% so far to 9.5%, aiding the economy’s expansion.