South Africa’s construction sector is moving to unite and work together to overcome common challenges, collaborate on opportunities, and drive future growth.

Phtot by James Sullivan | Unsplash

Phtot by James Sullivan | Unsplash

Speaking ahead of bauma CONEXPO AFRICA, stakeholders say there are positive signs that the sector is starting to work together in the interests of the entire value chain.

Suzette Scheepers, CEO of Messe Muenchen South Africa, says the past year was a challenging one for all construction sector businesses. However, the pandemic also proved to be the catalyst that brought stakeholders together to form a united front. “With the formation of the new construction industry umbrella body recently, the sector has positioned itself to simplify – and amplify the impact of – its talks with the government and its approaches to key issues,” she says.

CASA to build united sector

Roy Mnisi, Executive Director of Master Builders South Africa, says the official launch of the new Construction Alliance South Africa (CASA) heralds the start of a new era for South African construction. With its roots in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, when a handful of industry bodies – including Master Builders South Africa (MBSA) – worked together to negotiate the reopening of building sites during lockdown, CASA was officially inaugurated on 21 January this year.

This new umbrella body now counts 33 industry bodies among its members, and is growing fast. Says Mnisi: “South Africa’s construction industry has been fragmented for too long. We have scores of bodies representing various components of the construction value chain; but, essentially, we all face similar challenges. In silos, we all held our own talks with the government, which made important decisions more complex and time consuming. In April last year, when our industry formed the Covid-19 response task team, we saw how effective a well-coordinated industry response could be. We achieved safe reactivation of construction sites relatively quickly, so limiting the impact of the lockdown on all our members. This was quite an achievement from our side, as we might otherwise have been at bottom of the list of industries that were going to be eased back into work.”

“A collective, collaborative approach has more impact. As CASA, our members can collectively lobby the government on common issues such as non-payment by government departments and the negative impacts of the ‘construction mafia’. These challenges affect everyone from building contractors and plumbers, through to architects and quantity surveyors in the long run,” Mnisi says.

“Our members have dual memberships across a wide range of professions and services. With a common and consolidated approach across a wide value chain, we are overcoming industry fragmentation and stand a better chance of impact in our communications with the government.”

Among its aims, the new umbrella body aims to accelerate the transformation of the construction industry, create an enabling environment for broader access; promote ethical business practices in the industry; and lobby for the protection of the South African construction industry against subsidised foreign competition. CASA also wants to actively encourage skills development to sustain the industry and build capacity to develop local infrastructure; as well as to promote professionalism and wipe out fronting and corruption in the sector.

“We believe now that we work together as a united sector, we can speak in one voice and deal with perceptions that construction is a corrupt sector; we can respond collectively and constructively to industry issues and challenges; and we can establish formal and transparent channels of communication with the government,” Mnisi says.

Concludes Scheepers: “bauma CONEXPO AFRICA enhances CASA’s unifying efforts by providing a platform to bring stakeholders together from across the value chain for three days of knowledge sharing and networking. We look forward to a new chapter for the construction sector, in which collaboration and communication form the foundation of fresh growth for the industry.”