From its beginnings in South Africa on the April 1, 1921, engineering consulting firm Knight Piésold has established and grown its local operations within Southern Africa, through its offices in Namibia, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Madagascar, Swaziland, Mauritius and South Africa.
Speaking at the company’s centenary celebrations held in Sandton, this week, Knight Pièsold Southern Africa regional manager Vishal Haripersad explained that operations across Africa were staffed by locals in those countries and supported by the collective skills, knowledge and expertise of both its Southern African and global teams.
“This has happened without Knight Pièsold losing its unique culture, identity and heritage; and without needing to be acquired by a global company to grow and expand.
“In fact, through organic growth and expansion, Knight Piésold has grown into a truly international organisation, with offices in Australia, North and South America, the UK and throughout the African continent,” Haripersad acclaimed.
He added that the market within which the company operates today has evolved over the years, in terms of both the changing needs of the economy and political changes.
“Our business has accordingly evolved and transformed into the entity it is today. Transformation at Knight Piésold is about institutionalising the competencies and capabilities of our organisation and people, and expanding the breadth and efficiency of our business to create value for all our stakeholders.
“Transformation at Knight Piésold is to reinvent ourselves and to take on the new challenges that lie ahead. And to harness the tremendous opportunities on our continuous path of value creation.”
Haripersad noted that while the company’s strength lies in its record of delivering large infrastructure and mining projects throughout Africa, it believes that, through the divisionalisation of its business, it is better geared to partner with clients to offer a more focussed and efficient service.
This is evidenced through its recent and current involvement on several megaprojects throughout Africa.
For example, Knight Piésold was part of the consortium involved in the design and supervision of the construction of both the Katse and Mohale dams, which form a key part of Phase 1 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). The company is now part of the team working on key elements of Phase 2 of the LHWP.
Within South Africa, Knight Piésold was the lead consultant in the design and construction supervision for the multibillion-rand Western and Northern Aqueduct projects. These are large diameter pipelines necessary to bring potable water to the rapidly developing areas of the eThekwini municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.
Knight Piésold has also played a key role in both the design and construction supervision of the South Africa-based Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme.
This is a critical project for the country, completed under the auspices of State-owned power utility Eskom, and entailed the design and construction of dams, roads, tunnels, caverns and all related aspects of the project.
The company was also the lead consultant in the design and construction supervision of the Neckertal dam project, located in Keetmanshoop, Namibia.
Haripersad stressed the importance of partnerships as an important feature of future growth.
“We realised that rather than lament the slow rate of infrastructure development, the lack of significant investment in education and educational facilities, the poor state of mathematics and science teaching and results in high schools, and the pervasive influence of corruption through the tendering process we needed to change our paradigm to define the path ahead for ourselves as a company in the African context,” he noted.
To this end, Knight Piésold has realigned its strategic objectives as an organisation and has repositioned itself as a key driver in the achievement of the objectives of national and local government.
This is ensuring that it plays a key role in facilitating the expansion of national production and income as a prerequisite for job creation, improved living standards, and economic development.
Haripersad added that unemployment is one of Africa’s main socioeconomic problems, so increased employment is a central policy objective for the continent.
“Practically, the achievement of these objectives will be driven by increasing public sector investment in infrastructure development and Knight Piésold intends to be a key player in partnering with government to achieve these goals,” he informed.
Another key objective for the company is to play a role in ensuring that the local consulting engineering industry transforms adequately and offers significant opportunities to local and emerging consultants and businesses, but not at the expense of quality.
“We are committed that the development of these emerging local consulting practices and engineers is done in an ethical manner that is consistent and well planned to ensure that the resultant engineers and businesses are competent, sustainable and capable of being viable enterprises in their own rights.
“Through our enterprise development programmes, and in-house mentorship and training programmes, we have taken numerous consultants through this process and developed competent businesses. We further reinforce this through our strong emphasis on the hiring of local competent staff wherever we operate,” Haripersad said.