The South African aggregates sector was a tale of two halves in 2021, with the first half of the year experiencing a V-shaped recovery and the second a gradual slowdown in volumes. This is the view of Andries van Heerden, CEO of Afrimat, who tells Quarrying Africa that while government’s Recovery and Reconstruction Plan has been slow out of the starting blocks, there are however some exciting projects on the horizon.
Having taken the brunt of the hard lockdown in early 2020, the aggregates sector enjoyed what Van Heerden calls a V-shaped recovery during the first half of 2021. “Last year was a tale of two halves. After the 2020 slowdown, we saw a strong recovery during the first half of 2021, with volumes even surpassing the pre-COVID levels at some point. It was a welcome relief for an industry that had been on a downward trajectory since 2017,” he says.
Unfortunately, adds Van Heerden, the industry started seeing a gradual slowdown in demand in the second half of 2021. Despite talk of government’s economic recovery plans announced in 2020 being centred on infrastructure development for job creation, Van Heerden says not much has happened on the ground. With no meaningful infrastructure projects coming to market, there has been a slow recovery of the country’s construction sector, with significant knock-on effects on the quarrying industry and the economy at large.
“There has been a general slowdown of the construction materials industry in the past six to seven months. While it has not necessarily come to a grinding halt, it is nowhere near the envisaged volume levels. We expected a lot better, given government’s announcements in 2020 that infrastructure development would be central to resuscitating the economy. Given the circumstances, the industry is making a good living out of the current market conditions,” says Van Heerden.
Despite the slow pace of government’s infrastructure rollout, Van Heerden says there is reason to be hopeful, with some exciting projects on the cards.
According to the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, the South African government announced the rollout of 62 projects at the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium South Africa in 2020. About 33% of these projects are in construction and some have already been completed, with another 20% at various stages of preparation and feasibility.
Refer to the Jan/Feb issue of Quarrying Africa for the full story.