While South Africa has made significant progress in improving the living standards of its citizens, Bafokeng Holding chairperson Monhla Hlahla laments that infrastructure still remains the biggest challenge for many in the country.
“Infrastructure is the main source where our people see no service delivery, where our people have seen monies lost and have nothing to show for delivery. It is the main source for growing poverty and strife,” she bemoaned during her keynote address at the virtual Women in Infrastructure Summit on August 24.
However, while the South African government may have come to the realisation that it cannot “do it alone”, Hlahla urged women in the industry to see this realisation as an opportunity to “find [their] role” in the industry.
South Africa’s social and economic infrastructure is collapsing at a rapid rate, she continued, adding that, at the current rate, the country’s infrastructure cannot support the high level of economic growth it aspires to achieve.
Hlahla quoted research by financial consultant Intellidex, which states that infrastructure investment has fallen sharply in the last six years, from 20.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015, to 17.9% in 2019. It has since fallen further, she commented, adding that these figures are far from the 30% target of GDP as envisaged in the National Development Plan 2030.
The same report, which was commissioned and funded by Business Leadership South Africa, points out that the decreasing investment has been “especially clear” in public sector spending, with both State-owned enterprises and budget spending being the main roots of declining infrastructure spend – falling from 7.3% of GDP to just 5.4% over the same period.
However, in the commitment to delivering infrastructure, Hlahla emphasised that women, and other individuals, must take a stand against corruption.
“As individuals, business leaders representing various companies, as a forum of women in infrastructure, we come together from different walks of life and must bring together resources to find a solution to the infrastructure-related woes the country is experiencing,” she said.
Hlahla further urged that, in taking a stand against corruption, women must “live and act ethically” and call their business partners to account while seeking ethical outcomes at all times.
“This is the only way to give effect to the vision and values of human dignity, equality and freedom for our people."