During times of crisis we crave information, clarity and direction. For this reason, dmg events convened a meeting on 21 April 2020 with its esteemed Advisory Board for the African Construction & Totally Concrete Expo. The objective of the meeting was to directly engage with key stakeholders and ensure the upcoming event will remain an active support for the construction industry, considering the sector’s urgent needs during the Covid-19 crisis.
The following were in attendance: Sandor Dowling from Sanika Waterproofing, Henry Cockroft from CMA, Bonolo Ngkogodi from CESA, Aubrey Tshalata the President of NAFBI and Herman Enoch from FEMA.
Sector challenges: what’s keeping them up at night?
Representing service providers and contractors to the industry, some of the key concerns are ability to pay, ability to proceed and ability to plan. The priority focus is on getting work going again, managing how renegotiated terms could solve upfront problems. The biggest impact of this right now is inactive manufacturing plants and the daily cost of inactive manufacturing plants. The problem is big enough to consider that any extension of the lockdown on our industry is putting our manufacturer’s existence on the line.
Defining the challenges of resuming manufacturing activity in this completely novel scenario is the order of business. A question like this immediately raises a broader question: who will ultimately be responsible for ensuring safety in these workspaces, with such a diversity of operational demands and challenges.
“We concur with the call to action to declare the construction industry and essential industry,” noted Henry Cockroft.
The way forward: what is new normal for sector?
It is common-cause that sufficient housing, services and access to health facilities is a pre-condition for sustainable health services to be effective. Construction is at the core of this achieving this. Getting the industry up and running again as an essential service is priority one for the construction industry.
Aubrey Tshalata is one of the key voices linking the industry with government and engages from the level of the presidency onwards. NAFBI has been engaging through the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI).
NAFBI has issued its own guidelines on how companies can manage getting back to work, adhering to strict occupational health and safety regulations. Promoting hygiene and providing access to water, sanitation products and educational and training materials on site has now been organised and specified.
Thsalata also noted meetings with all the SETAs and the Department of Education, focussed on how to get the construction elements back to work.
“It is essential that we forge one voice as the construction industry,” said Tshalata.
Construction projects: which projects will continue and are essential for 2020?
Prominent amongst these projects is the cluster of projects from the South African Roads Agency (SANRAL). The tenders are ready to be released. NAFBI has given mentorship to over 540 SMMEs that are going to be subcontracting on these SANRAL projects alone. The consultants have already been appointed and projects will start as soon we go back to work.
On the 21 April 2020, NAFBI was joined by Mike Wylie (former CEO of WBHO) and Louwtjie Nel (current CEO of WBHO) in talks with CEOs of construction companies about other ‘ready-to-go’ projects, including the extension of the Durban Harbour.
“And in the provinces, the obvious projects emerging are low-cost housing projects. And solving the challenges here is a particularly interesting space,” said Thsalata. One of the key consideration for all rapid low-cost housing projects is in pre-cast concrete products.
In summary…challenges, losses, gains and innovations
FEMA is focussing on education and making its resources available online through animated media. “We need to build a resource centre for the construction sector, and we are putting a task team together for this,” explained Herman Enoch.
Following this, Henry Cockroft noted that the manufacturing side of the sector – particularly cement production, ready mix producers, precast manufacturers, lintels etc – all play a vital role in bringing the industry back online. Bonolo Nkogodo concurred that digital opportunities abound, and CESA itself has taken major steps in stepping into the digital world.
The conversation doesn’t stop there as the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo is providing a reliable platform for imperative discussions arising from the Covid-19 crisis. Matters around cash flow and safety are some of the many challenges keeping industry players awake at night and the event wants to share best practice for the way forward. To kick off a series of webinars, the short-term plans prepared by the Construction Covid-19 Rapid Response Task Team will be clarified and discussed.
The African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo, that will take place on 16 – 18 September 2020 at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg.