Africa remains a strategic and promising business region for integrated infrastructure delivery company Aecom and, as the outlook for the continent remains positive, the company is ensuring it has the necessary staff and technical expertise to allow it to capitalise on growth opportunities.
In West Africa, Ghana is reporting robust growth, where Aecom is overseeing construction of the $1.5-billion Tema Port Expansion Project for container-terminal operator Meridian Port Services. While the company already has a project office at Tema Port with 35 employees, it intends to have a permanent office in place in Ghana this year, according to Aecom Africa CEO Carlos Poñe.
“Growth on the continent is expected to continue into 2018. This is on the back of expected increases in commodity prices, better macroeconomic conditions, an improving business environment, investment in infrastructure, and increasing foreign direct investment and interregional trade.”
He explains that the company is in the early stages of entrenching its footprint in Africa. However, Aecom believes strongly in supplier development and localisation. “We see it as aligned closely to the growth, procurement, and transformation objectives of any country, along with a strong element of job creation and enterprise development. The aim of localisation and supplier development is to increase competitiveness, capability, capacity and skills.”
In South Africa, Poñe stresses that Aecom supports the procurement of goods and services in line with the government’s objectives for developing and transforming local suppliers. “Our objective is to assist in transforming the local supply base by engaging in targeted supplier and enterprise development initiatives that support localisation, while also providing meaningful opportunities.”
The focus is in particular on the youth, women, people with disabilities, and small, medium-sized and microenterprises. Aecom’s Supplier Development Team ensures that all elements of procurement, supply chain, supplier and enterprise development are developed, implemented, monitored, reported on, and audited.
Aecom currently has about 800 employees on the continent, with offices in Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. Poñe cites health and safety and business ethics as key to its continued growth on the continent. “Being a company that sells expertise, our people are naturally at the top of our agenda. We cannot do the work we do without having the best people globally.”
Poñe stresses that Aecom’s approach to Africa is based on being 100% compliant with the local laws and regulations, which is seen as a minimum requirement for conducting business. With regard to the company’s broader service offerings, Aecom provides a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering solutions that create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.
“Our people are creative, trusted partners whose expertise, focus and passion are unrivalled in our industry, and recognisable in the transformational work we carry out globally. It is energising now to consider 2017 as the year we started to showcase our full power.”
Whether shaping an urban skyline, delivering power or clean water to a remote village, providing the infrastructure that drives economic growth, or enhancing security and safeguarding the environment, Poñe assures that Aecom helps to make a difference, improving lives and building a better world. “Our clients face an increasingly complex environment, with cost pressures, evolving market conditions and demanding technical challenges. The projects we work on reflect this reality.”
In order to unlock development and attract foreign investment, whether in South Africa or more widely in Africa, Poñe points to a successful recipe for infrastructure projects as attractive financial feasibility, good engineering and project management capability, and a proper offtake.
“If you have all of these elements in place, success is virtually guaranteed,” Poñe emphasises. He points to the long-established Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). Driven by South Africa, the SAPP has promoted interconnectivity between electricity grids and the interchange of power resources between members of the Southern African Development Community.
“This project made perfect sense; there was an offtake from South Africa, and the necessary political will to bring it about.”
Another perfect example is the Nacala Corridor, in northern Mozambique, which extends from the Nacala Port inland, and further to neighbouring Malawi and Zambia. This was an excellent example of a transport corridor combining port and rail infrastructure for the development of the region. Here, the private sector was involved with the roads, and the government with the master planning and the general political will, which meant that the project made good business sense in the end.
“There are issues on the regulatory side that need to be addressed in Africa. There is also an absence of common standards across borders, and competing agendas on large projects. It is critical that these competing agendas dissolve to enable us to close some of the gaps,” Poñe concludes.