As the KZN Construction Expo got underway at the Durban Exhibition Centre on 20 and 21 February 2019, it served as a reminder to the industry that it has an instrumental role to play in the country’s socio-economic development and in ensuring practical job creation on a provincial and national level over the next decade and more.
A tale of two cities
Construction conversations buzzed during free CPD-accredited workshops and discussion forums for building industry professionals, during networking opportunities and around display stands of world-class exhibitors, which showcased the latest construction products, technology and services.
Meanwhile, in another coastal city, finance minister Tito Mboweni delivered his Budget Speech 2019, which also focused heavily investing in and building the country.
About 2 400 attendees in the construction sector, ranging from contractors, architects, quantity surveyors, property developers, government and industry associations, agreed with the Department of Finance’s pledge to stimulate economic activity and growth. The budget speech highlighted that resources will be reprioritised away from the wage bill to bolster the president’s infrastructure fund earmarked for construction activities.
The fund will be aimed at accelerating R526-billion worth of infrastructure projects through private-public-partnerships. The private sector will provide its expertise to design, build and operate key infrastructure assets, while government commits R100-billion over the next decade. Government is betting that reprioritisation of resources towards infrastructure spending would be enough to boost socio-economic development. In recent years, Treasury has been cutting infrastructure spending to the country’s detriment.
Building growth in KZN
Having said that, the efforts and effects of building activity and spending are visible in the provincial industry. The province of KwaZulu-Natal alone is setting aside R200-billion in government expenditure for infrastructure development over the next seven years. Of this, R35-billion will be invested in the Point Waterfront development over the next 15 years. Other projects such as the 1 300ha Cornubia mixed-use development is set to provide about 25 000 housing opportunities, including about 15 000 fully-subsidised Breaking New Ground (BNG) units.
During the expo’s Stakeholder Engagement Forum, Department of Public Works director of communications, Kiru Naidoo, echoed government’s commitment to utilise infrastructure construction and development as the key driver to grow job opportunities and the country’s economy.
“The more infrastructure you build – whether these are roads, housing, schools, hospitals or commercial centres – the more the economy is booming. Once you build something, you have a whole range of employment opportunities opening up in that area, which in turn sends long-lasting ripple effects through the community,” Naidoo says.
“This sends a strong message about government’s commitment to growth,” says Naidoo. “We need to invest in infrastructure to boost job creation and the economic outlook of the country and province.”
Provincial employment boost
The latest Stats SA unemployment figures are further proof that construction feeds growth (or rather that the lack of investment in construction projects is detrimental to job creation). Stats from the last quarter of 2018 showed that the largest employment losses nationwide (compared to the third quarter of 2018) were observed in community and social services (51 000), transport (30 000), utilities (22 000) and construction where 21 000 workers in South Africa lost their jobs.
However, the KZN construction industry has seen an uptick in employment due to increased construction activity – 6 000 more people have been employed since last quarter (up 2.5%). Compared to last year, the numbers are even better, indicating that 24 300 more people in the province’s construction industry have been employed. That is up 48%.
On the success of the third annual KZN Construction Expo, Tracy-Lee Behr of dmg events, expo organisers, says, “The expo, and especially its continuous-learning focus, is tremendously relevant to what the industry and the provincial government alike are trying to achieve – to grow opportunities in the industry and to equip the labour force for the growth that is already taking place in our industry.”
Every year, the KZN Construction Expo offers a platform to thousands of construction professionals to connect and drive the future of the construction sector in KwaZulu-Natal.
To find out more about past, present and future editions of the expo, visit: www.kznconstructionexpo.com.