Igniting the massive construction industry undoubtedly holds the key to kick-starting the economy and turning the tide on rising unemployment in South Africa, writes Nico Pienaar.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly turned even the best laid plans on their heads but it is time for the country to regroup and focus its efforts on supporting industries that have the potential to drag the economy out of the doldrums and onto a new path of growth. The construction industry is like no other sector in the country with the ability to build infrastructure required to advance the economy, as well as to employ millions of people directly and indirectly.
This is not only good news on a macro-economic scale, but even better news for local economies where large-scale projects could uplift communities through well considered and necessary infrastructure projects with the added advantage of employing individuals from local communities.
The period of cooperation between all role players in the industry arising from the COVID-19 emergency should provide a platform to establish a joint planning entity for the identification of key projects that can achieve the aim of building necessary infrastructure where it is needed and with maximum impact on improving communities’ lives.
Similar initiatives are being proposed and implemented by governments throughout the world where countries such as the United States and other advanced economies have mooted infrastructure projects to restart their economies. These propose cooperation between industries such as technology, financial and other key industries to develop next generation infrastructure.
Planning will be essential, as will be the need to bring all the relevant industry bodies together to examine available resources and measure the capacity of each segment. ASPASA, for example, represents surface mines who produce the main components of raw materials for the industry.
Similarly, other material suppliers such as wood and steel, as well as vocations such as engineering, construction contractors and architects, are also represented by professional bodies that should also be consulted. Academic bodies and institutions will be required to undertake necessary research and provide technical guidance.
With this kind of coordinated approach, it may very well be possible to put resources into areas where they are most needed and provide Treasury and other government departments with undeniable reasons to unlock budgets and get such projects moving. If South Africa wants to remain competitive, it is imperative that our plans are laid down now and that we get out of the blocks quickly rather than continue lagging.
It is time that we realise the important role that the construction sector plays in South Africa and the critical part it now needs to play in rebuilding our futures.