As Mariswe approaches its 50th anniversary as a respected South African consulting engineering business in 2022, CEO Nonkululeko Sindane reflects that its success has resulted from opportunities not only at home but across Africa.
“I am proud that we have grown from strength to strength in providing civil engineering services to improve the quality of life for communities in 18 African countries,” says Sindane. “We continue to embrace traditions like excellence and community focus that date back to our humble beginnings in 1972, melded with new ones that make us relevant now. Our progress in transformation, particularly the increase in women at all levels in our ranks, is a highlight for me.
“When we started looking at cross-border opportunities in the early 2000s, we had an excellent track record in South Africa, a strong professional team to plan, design and deliver projects, sound project management capabilities, and an appetite for growth. Most of all, our team had the passion and flexibility to deliver benefits to communities, no matter where they were.”
The Tanzania office was launched in May 2005 as a partnership between Mariswe (then UWP Consulting) and five local professionals. This business has completed many projects, notably the 65 km Tanga-Horohoro and 78 km Peramiho-Mbinga roads, as well as supervision of the Lower Ruvu Water Treatment Plant expansion to provide potable water to Dar es Salaam.
Off the back of this came the Lusaka Water Supply, Sanitation and Drainage project in Zambia. In 2015, Mariswe South Africa was appointed as construction supervising engineer, the company’s biggest ever single award.
The project involved six construction packages that directly benefit more than 1.2-million people.
Construction of large civil infrastructure in the heart of any busy city is difficult, and this was exacerbated by the discovery of innumerable unmapped and often illegal/informal electrical, communications, water and sewer services.
To meet the challenges, Mariswe assembled a 70-strong multinational team in Lusaka including engineers, technicians, planners, quantity surveyors, a contract law specialist, health and safety personnel, an environmental specialist and a social and gender specialist.
“We worked with a very professional team from the Zambian government and learned a great deal from this project,” says Sindane.
It has become second nature to Mariswe to pursue projects on the continent, with the lion’s share of assignments to date in water, roads and mining infrastructure.
Mariswe also has subsidiary firms in Ghana and Zambia and a branch office in Lesotho. Projects have additionally been undertaken Botswana, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, eSwatini, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The company partners with local teams in every country and has achieved pleasing outcomes through structures such as joint ventures and consortia. Sindane says there is no doubt that cross-border opportunities have supported Mariswe’s sustainability in South Africa, particularly in recent years when a stagnant economy and decline in infrastructure spending have negatively impacted the construction sector.
“We could not have survived without projects from the continent. They have kept us going and while we will continue investing time and resources in local projects, cross-border projects also form part of our strategy and we will target new opportunities to work across Africa,” she concludes.