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Innovation, investment key to advance infrastructure growth

ACHIEVING IMPROVEMENTS By addressing challenges and leveraging innovation, South Africa can achieve significant improvements in its infrastructure

FRIEDRICH SLABBERT The condition of South Africa’s road and bridge infrastructure varies significantly across the country, and while major highways and national roads are generally well maintained, many provincial and municipal roads suffer from neglect and lack of investment

14th June 2024

By: Simone Liedtke

Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer

     

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While challenges such as funding constraints and skills shortages persist, the roads and bridges sector is poised for growth through strategic investments and technological advancements.

By addressing challenges and leveraging innovation, South Africa can achieve significant improvements in its infrastructure, to the benefit of the economy and society, says civil engineering industry organisation South African Institution of Civil Engineering 2025 president-elect Friedrich Slabbert.

The condition of South Africa’s road and bridge infrastructure varies significantly across the country, and while major highways and national roads are generally well maintained, many provincial and municipal roads suffer from neglect and lack of investment.

This disparity highlights the need for a more balanced approach to infrastructure development that ensures equitable access to well-maintained roads and bridges, he tells Engineering News.

He notes that the inconsistency in infrastructure quality between urban and rural areas is a significant concern, and that it is, therefore, essential that the sector focuses on providing equitable infrastructure development across the entire country.

To that end, Slabbert emphasises the importance of several high-profile projects under way, including the rehabilitation of major highways, the construction of new bridges and extensive road maintenance programmes.

“These projects are not only essential for improving transportation networks but also for job creation and improved logistics.”

One such project is the upgrade of the N3 highway, which is considered a vital artery for the country’s logistics network. This project aims to improve traffic flow and safety on one of the busiest routes in South Africa.

Despite all the progress that has been made, Slabbert points out several challenges facing the roads and bridges sector.

One of the primary issues is inadequate funding to maintain existing infrastructure, as many roads and bridges require urgent repairs, but budget constraints often limit the scope and scale of maintenance activities.

Additionally, the procurement processes for infrastructure projects can be slow and bureaucratic, leading to delays in project implementation.

Another significant challenge is the skills imbalances related to experience and knowledge in the engineering sector.

“There is a critical need for skilled engineers and technicians who can manage and execute complex infrastructure projects. Addressing this skills gap is essential for ensuring the successful completion of projects and maintaining high standards of quality,” Slabbert explains.

Further, Slabbert also notes that while there are supportive policies aimed at promoting infrastructure development, there is often a gap between policy and implementation.

Slabbert believes that South Africa can significantly improve its infrastructure with the correct combination of investment, a skilled workforce and the adoption of appropriate technologies.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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