South Africa’s construction industry is of strategic importance for the country’s economic growth and in the recovery from a pandemic-affected business environment.
The sector has been sluggish in recent years, says engineering solutions company Zimile Consulting Engineers CEO Shawn Gama. He claims that a shift in focus is necessary for businesses in the industry to survive and thrive.
“Like any business trying to work in a constrained economy – in between lockdown levels and virus waves – we have faced trying times. However, I am proud to say Zimile Consulting Engineers came through 2021 with a strong project pipeline and a full staff complement. We are in a very fortunate position, and it comes down to three things.”
Firstly, he believes that broadening its focus from road infrastructure to wider service delivery – especially water – has been key. Water and sanitation became top of Zimile’s mind when Covid-19 first hit, and having already started improving its expertise in water infrastructure, was primed to deliver “exceptionally well”, he remarks.
“The lesson here is perhaps that, although it is great to find a niche, the time has come to broaden one’s horizons. I am happy to report we have several water projects lined up for 2022,” explains Gama.
Secondly, the need for rural infrastructure has become clear, Gama says. While many companies have been focusing on metropolitan projects amid rapid urbanisation, government is still working towards providing improved services to rural areas too. Zimile is increasingly putting itself forward for these rural sector infrastructure projects.
Zimile Consulting Engineers has been partnering with communities and the public sector and has found a synergy here, he claims. “Our engineering expertise can be applied to solve challenges faced by these rural communities.”
Owing to Zimile Consulting Engineers’ efforts in various rural municipalities, it has grown its project portfolio into several new provinces and will look towards establishing satellite offices in these areas in 2022.
Gama comments that when working with the public sector, his focus on accountability and value for money has boosted the company’s reputation as a go-to consulting engineering firm, bringing private sector skills into public sector projects.
“There is currently a lot of mistrust between private and public sector stakeholders, with apprehension over local government’s capacity to drive projects, and frustration over the procurement process. These feelings are not unwarranted – however, we have decided to lead by example, hold ourselves accountable for service delivery, and partner with our clients with fair treatment and value for money at the fore.”
With South Africa’s continued focus on infrastructure-led economic recovery, there are opportunities available for those firms ready to shift their strategy towards priority projects, concludes Gama.