Despite the contribution of the construction sector to local economic activity being inconsistent, and having decreased significantly over the years, Constructional Engineering Association (CEA) executive director Anthony Boy is hopeful that there will be an upturn in investments in the sector this year.
This comes after Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) chief economist and commercial executive Michael Ade, who compiled the ‘Seifsa Economic Outlook’ report on behalf of the CEA, mentions that the prognostic is for a moderate rebound in construction sector activity, driven by increased investment spending by the private business enterprise and general government.
Boy says, while there is optimism about increased investment this year, industry needs to be innovative, and consider new products and new opportunities to export. Recent changes in trade tariffs and a relaxation on export regulations mean that more exports can be initiated.
Amid the economic situation locally and having seen what is required to uplift the sector to its former glory, the CEA hopes to reignite the interest needed by the captains of industry to restore the local construction and fabrication industries to their former glory.
This will be done with a face-to-face drive, spearheaded by Boy, meeting with every one of the CEA’s 278 members at senior management level to initiate conversation within each company to encourage participation.
The initiative hopes to gather the information required to take the industry forward. “Meeting with the decision-makers in industry, getting them to be more hands on, and learning from each one’s opinion and experience will benefit the industry profoundly,” says Boy.
He notes that the CEA would often discuss the way forward with government and industry bodies, but interest in these meetings petered out in the past few years. He believes that this has negatively impacted on the sector and needs to be addressed at grass-roots level.
Further, the CEA also hopes to reestablish communication with government – specifically the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Business Unity South Africa and The National Economic Development and Labour Council – which sadly has become weaker over the last few years.
The CEA hopes to accomplish this by working with Seifsa and Ade, who is highly regarded in the industry and is known to communicate well at government level. CEA believes that with the captains of industry, government and reputed experts on board, the construction sector can grow exponentially in the next three years.
Although previous CEA executive director Louis Breckenridge says the construction industry is in the worst state it has ever been, he is hopeful that, through perseverance, the industry can recover: “Companies need to take the initiative, be proactive and must not give up”.
He asserts that South African engineers, designers and inventors have the skills and intuition to invent and develop new technologies for and on behalf of South Africa.
The local construction sector will show great potential for the future if given the right tools and foundation, Breckenridge adds. “The DTI needs to display more faith in the capabilities of the South African worker, and realise the potential within our borders.”
Breckenridge, who currently fills what he calls a “watching brief” position in the industry, has been on the judge’s panel for the Seifsa Awards and has first-hand knowledge of the innovation and potential of South Africans. “Once this has been embraced, and the mindset of the DTI has changed, we could hold a lot of credibility globally.”
Boy concludes that “through direct communication with our membership and government, we believe we can adequately represent the industry, and look forward to a prosperous future”.