A Call for Diverse and Collaborative Leadership - Stronger Together to Secure a Sustainable Future for All!

A Call for Diverse and Collaborative Leadership – Stronger Together to Secure a Sustainable Future for All!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for gathering here today at our Western Cape province Branch Function.
As we embark on a new chapter in the history of Consulting Engineers South Africa, it is both an honour and a privilege to stand before you as the President of this organisation, and I am humbled by the trust and confidence that our member companies have placed in me.

Allow me to begin by echoing the timeless wisdom of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

These words encapsulate the essence of our journey ahead, and my theme for the coming year is ‘A Call for Diverse and Collaborative Leadership – Stronger Together to Secure a Sustainable Future for Us All!

With the national elections concluded, it’s imperative to maintain continuity in infrastructure development and service delivery without disruptions. Ensuring seamless progress in these areas is essential for sustaining momentum and meeting the needs of our citizens. So, in the spirit of unity, let us work together to secure a sustainable future.

As we embark on this collective journey, it is essential to reflect on the challenges and opportunities that lie before us. CESA has a rich legacy of addressing critical issues in the built environment, and it is our responsibility to build upon this foundation and lead with vision and purpose.

As a proud member of the International Federation of Consulting Engineers, we recognise our role and relationship with the global engineering community, and we bear the responsibility of fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange within the African engineering community. Together, we can amplify our impact and contribute to the sustainable development of the entire continent.

At the recently concluded FIDIC Africa Infrastructure Conference, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Prof PLO Lumumba emphasised the urgent need of infrastructure development in Africa to enable us to realise our full potential as a continent.

His words resonate very much with what we need to do at home in South Africa. He said that engineers are essential to addressing Africa’s infrastructure challenges and achieving sustainable development – we agree! He also echoed the call for African engineers to take ownership of infrastructure projects, reducing reliance on external expertise and ensuring that development is tailored to the continent’s unique needs.
Moreover, Prof. PLO Lumumba presentation emphasised the importance of self-reliance and local innovation, calling for collaboration between universities, industries, and governments to foster a culture of innovation. By doing so, he believed, Africa could create robust infrastructure that supports economic growth, facilitates intra-continental trade, and improve the quality of life for its people.
His call to action was very clear: African engineers must lead the charge in transforming the continent’s infrastructure landscape to realise its full potential.
In saying so, in South Africa too, must also undertake to create an environment that not only retains local talent but also attracts global professionals. Strengthening ties with international engineering organisations, like FIDIC, can provide a platform for:

• Collaboration,
• Knowledge exchange, and
• Networking, which makes South Africa an appealing destination for professionals seeking a dynamic and rewarding career in the built environment.

In a world that increasingly demands growth, tolerance, and stability, we must position ourselves as standard-bearers of these values. As leaders in the engineering and built environments, we must actively promote and contribute to an environment that fosters:
• Collaboration,
• Understanding and
• Peaceful coexistence.

By doing so, we not only secure a stable foundation for our projects but also play a vital role in global progress and sustainable development.

As professionals in the built environment, we play a pivotal role in shaping the physical and social landscapes of local and global communities.

Collaborative efforts with international partners and organisations can facilitate:
• the exchange of best practice,
• fostering a climate of peace and stability
• conducive to the successful implementation of projects on a local and global scale.

Moreover, enhancing digital and automation transformation is paramount for our local industry to remain at the forefront of the global technological landscape.

The world is undergoing a profound transformation and to remain at the forefront of technology globally, our local industry must embrace innovation. The integration of digital technologies and automation is not just a choice; it is an imperative for survival and success.

It is also not merely about adopting new technologies; it’s about fundamentally reshaping the way we:
• design,
• build, and
• maintain infrastructure.

Embracing Building Information Modelling, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence can enhance project efficiency, reduce costs, and improve sustainability. It is essential to invest in education and training programmes that equip our workforce with the skills needed for the digital era.

Furthermore, fostering a culture of innovation within our organisations will empower engineers to think creatively and push the boundaries of what is possible, ensuring that the South African industry remains a global leader in technology.

Let us commit ourselves to fostering an environment that encourages and supports innovation. By doing so, we can position our industry:
• as a leader in adopting cutting-edge technologies,
• ensuring efficiency,
• sustainability,
• and competitiveness in the global market.

We continue to make this appeal to our government and we want to say it again: “It is crucial to emphasise the importance of translating policy into action”. A call to implement initiatives and leverage the skills present in the private sector is essential – By The way; “we’re still looking for that advisory seat at the table.”

Collaboration between government entities and the private sector is key to achieving success. Encouraging such partnerships can lead to:
• Faster project delivery,
• Improved resource allocation, and
• Enhanced overall project outcomes.

We are, of course, not ignorant to the many investment inhibitors, which we face as a country, so we too call on our government to get serious about earnestly addressing these, with a greater sense of urgency.

Acknowledging and addressing the infrastructure backlog in South Africa is fundamental to meeting the needs of a growing population, not ignoring the realities we have been experiencing in the face of changing climatic patterns. Addressing the backlog in the country presents:
• An opportunity for job creation,
• Economic stimulation and
• Improved quality of life.

We call on the government to focus on prioritising and fast-tracking key projects, coupled with efficient project management and resource allocation, to alleviate this backlog.

As we gather today, with the aim to “Building Tomorrow: Investing in the Progress of the Western Cape,” as referenced by the Provincial Minister of Infrastructure, Tertuis Simmers, when tabling the department’s budget for the 2024/25 financial year, we want to highlight the achievements and the infrastructure challenges facing the Western Cape province and our nation.

South Africa is grappling with a deficiency in public logistics infrastructure, including roads, rail, and ports, alongside a widespread disarray in essential services such as healthcare facilities, schools, and water and sanitation services. This dire situation necessitates our urgent attention and decisive action to address these multifaceted infrastructure shortcomings.

This continues to exact a heavy toll on our communities and businesses. The country’s power woes (prior to the last two months) and poor ageing infrastructure are further compounded by the inability to keep up with the burgeoning demand in overcrowded towns and cities, a consequence of decades of underinvestment and neglect.

We see this in Cape Town, where the failing water infrastructure and treatment plants require CRITICAL attention, a situation that ideally should have been addressed proactively years ago. Nevertheless, the city replaced over 40,000 meters of water pipes by March 2024, nearing its ambitious goal of 50,000 meters for the financial year. These efforts reflect the city’s dedication to improving essential services and supporting sustainable development.

In fact, the commitment to infrastructure development is exemplified by substantial investments that drive economic activity and growth. For instance, the City of Cape Town’s annual Infrastructure Report highlighted a robust R120 billion ten-year project pipeline that remains on track. This significant financial commitment not only fosters job creation but also promises long-term benefits for the region’s economy. Other provinces in South Africa can follow suit by prioritising similar long-term investments in infrastructure to stimulate economic growth and enhance public services.

Meanwhile, the need to improve Cape Town’s public transport system is critical to addressing traffic congestion, especially in the city center, which impacts businesses and citizens.

Innovative solutions are required to tackle these traffic issues effectively. Furthermore, a well-functioning public transport system, subjected to a due process, can enhance accessibility, improve quality of life for residents, and make the city more attractive to tourists and investors. This issue also highlights the urgent need for stronger public-private partnerships and coordinated efforts across all government levels to ensure effective and resilient infrastructure development.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to prioritise across the country:
• The maintenance of our existing infrastructure;
• The development of innovative solutions to address the pressing needs of our growing population and;
• Ensuring a Safe environment for infrastructure development.

There is an urgent need for better implementation and compliance with construction regulations. It is imperative that we reinforce our commitment to stringent safety standards and rigorous enforcement, which ensures the safety and well-being of construction workers and the public. By improving regulatory frameworks and compliance, we can build a safer environment for all.

As CESA, would also like to emphasise that: Failure to take action, not only jeopardizes our economic competitiveness, but also threatens the safety and well-being of our citizens.

As CESA, we recognise our vital role in supporting initiatives aimed at strengthening governance and financial management within local administrations. By fostering:
• Transparency,
• Accountability, and
• Good governance practices, we can help ensure that infrastructure investments are channelled towards projects that have a meaningful impact on improving the lives and livelihoods of all – so talk to us!

Other key issues include eradicating crime and corruption, including cable theft and vandalism. These reprehensible acts not only disrupts essential services, but also undermines public trust and confidence in the integrity of the management of our infrastructure systems.

It is abundantly clear that without decisive action to combat corruption and safeguard our infrastructure assets, we cannot hope to achieve sustainable development and prosperity for everyone in this province or across our country!

Consulting Engineers South Africa is committed to infrastructure development. We will continue to volunteer our efforts, uniting individual endeavours to create an enabling environment for:
• Successful planning,
• Implementation, and
• Completion of all infrastructure projects.

Failure is not an option for our communities. Today, Consulting Engineers South Africa reaffirms our call to work together – to collaborate within our communities and our nation, for the greater cause to ensure sustainable development.

It is an appeal to implement policies and utilise the skills in the private sector, emphasising that collaboration is key to success. Economic growth through sustainable infrastructure solutions is not just a goal; it is our duty to sustain the engineering and construction industry.

The importance of a robust procurement regulatory framework CAN-NOT be overstated. It ensures quality outcomes and safeguards against inefficiencies. Transformation legislation, such as is contained in the:
• BBBEE Act,
• the Employment Equity Amendment Regulations,
• and the now imminent Public Procurement Bill, Chapter 4 -Preferential Procurement, emanating from Sections 217 (2) & (3) should be based on reasonable, rational and consistent criteria, so that they are deemed to be constitutionally sound in respect of Section 217 (1).

Whereas we deem transformation to be a moral imperative and not just a legal requirement, it remains important that such legislation, when legally promulgated, be implemented correctly as well, if we are indeed to achieve the broad transformation objectives for which they are intended.

Rigorous tender evaluation processes for infrastructure development must be in place to assess among others:
• Total cost of ownership,
• Fair value for money,
• Risk,
• Excessively low or high pricing,
• Excessive discounting,
• Sustainability, and
• Innovation potential.

By promoting a fair and accountable procurement process, we can safeguard against corruption, ensure value for money, and raise the overall quality of infrastructure outcomes.

We do though seem to be in an era of arguably ill conceived, populist legislation. The Public Procurement Bill and National Health Insurance, for example, are two ground-breaking pieces of legislation that not only impact our industry directly, but all of society. Most commentators welcomed these for all of the good reasons, but at the same time we lament the exclusion of the informed and constructive inputs made by many.

CESA’s commitment to ‘leaving no one behind’ is reflected in our efforts to protect lives and livelihoods.

By creating a conducive environment for life and work options, we contribute to job creation and sustainable livelihoods.

But, the reality regarding the urgent need to mitigate unemployment in the country is critical.

Statistics South Africa released its Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2024, in May this year, and it states: – “Some young people have been disengaged from the labour market and they are also not building on their skills base through education and training – they are not in employment, education or training. There were about 10,3 million young people aged 15–24 years in Q1: 2024, of which 35,5% were not in employment, education or training.”

The number of unemployed people in South Africa, according to Stats SA, increased by
330 000 to 8,2 million during the same quarter. Let me repeat that;
8,2 million!

This trajectory cannot continue! The time for action and to change the narrative in this country is now!

In fact, the Construction Industry, can immediately contribute to the reduction of this number, should acceleration of investment in infrastructure development be made without further delay.

Prioritising an inclusive approach to infrastructure development is essential. Infrastructure projects should not only focus on physical development, but also on creating jobs, especially in marginalised communities.

This is why we are encouraged by:
• The Western Cape’s R12.7 million Masakh’Isizwe Bursary programme to supports students pursuing infrastructure-related degrees,
• While an additional R4.6 million is allocated to advance small enterprises in the construction industry,
• Complemented by a R7 million commitment to artisan apprenticeships fostering skilled labour for the province and national economy.

A common purpose unites us to utilise our engineering skills and collaborate with other sectors. This enables us to address infrastructure backlogs and improve living conditions for all.

By fostering economic inclusivity, we contribute not only to the development of individuals, but also to the overall resilience and sustainability of our society.

Linking economic growth with sustainable infrastructure solutions is vital for the long-term prosperity of the engineering and construction industries.

Sustainable practices, including:
• Green building technologies,
• Energy-efficient designs,
• Climate change resilience, and
• Eco-friendly, circular economy maximisation in the design and selection of construction materials, should be prioritised.

Not only do these practices contribute to environmental conservation, but they also attract investments and align with global sustainability goals.

By achieving sustainability, we not only secure the future of our industries, but also contribute to a healthier and more resilient economy.

The heart of Consulting Engineers South Africa lies in our members and industry partners.

Our collective skills, capacity, experience, and innovative ideas, position us as drivers of positive change. We share a developmental vision, recognising the vital role we play in achieving a unified agenda for continuous professional development within the infrastructure environment.

Members of Consulting Engineers South Africa are bound by a code of ethics, ensuring professionalism at all times. Many of our member companies hold ISO accreditation, a testament to their dedication to providing high-quality service to clients and society at large.

Our member companies and industry partners’ collective knowledge spans various engineering disciplines, ensuring a comprehensive approach to problem-solving. The wealth of experience within our community positions us to navigate complex projects successfully, while the innovative thinking prevalent in our industry allows us to pioneer creative solutions to both existing and emerging challenges.

So, I call on you – Let us leave no one behind!
We can do this! At CESA, we recognise the pivotal role played by our members, industry partners, government departments, and private sector client bodies in achieving a unified developmental agenda. Together, we form a crucial alliance working towards common goals. This collaborative approach not only maximises our collective impact, but also fosters a culture of shared responsibility and achievement.

CESA proudly reaffirms our unwavering commitment to infrastructure development.

We recognise the transformative power of well-planned and executed infrastructure projects in uplifting communities and driving economic progress.

As an organisation, we will continue to volunteer our efforts, mobilising collective expertise and resources.

Our goal is to unite individual efforts, fostering collaboration between government bodies and private sector to ensure the successful planning, implementation, and completion of all infrastructure projects, thereby contributing to the sustainable development of our nation.

In our pursuit of infrastructure development, we firmly believe that failure is not an option.

We recognise the profound influence infrastructure has on the lives of citizens, shaping their opportunities and quality of life. This realisation pushes us forward with a sense of urgency and determination.

It instils in us a commitment to excellence and a responsibility to deliver projects that stand the test of time, and positively impact generations to come.

Together We Can Go Far, Even Further Than Our Most Ambitious Dreams!

In conclusion, let our actions be guided by the principles of collaboration, commitment, and service. Together, we have the capacity to shape a future that surpasses even our most ambitious aspirations. As we embark on this journey, let us remember that our collective efforts today lay the foundation for a better tomorrow.

In the year ahead, we call on industry and, all its partners to forge a diverse and collaborative leadership. Let us become STRONGER TOGETHER to secure a sustainable future for all!