Experts consider the foundations for a sustainable South Africa

22 October 2014


The 109th annual Master Builders South Africa (MBSA) Conference got underway in September 2014, at the Boardwalk Hotel and Convention Centre in Port Elizabeth. The theme for this year’s Congress was ‘Building a Sustainable South Africa’, aimed to address subjects such as skills development, growth and job creation within the building and construction industry.

Over 200 people from South Africa, Egypt, Malawi, Swaziland and the UK attended the event to discuss key issues relating to the construction industry in South Africa. Concrete.TV was on hand to film the event and interview key people in the industry about these issues.  

The first day of the Congress featured expert speakers presenting in-depth insights and information to decision makers and planners from in and around the construction industry. Key themes included education, the state of the local economy, job creation and future prospects for both the construction industry and South Africa.

MBSA President Colin Cozens, who opened the Congress, stated, “The theme of this year’s Congress is ‘Building a Sustainable South Africa’. In order to achieve this, we need to have an all-inclusive building industry. We simply cannot leave out the previously marginalised parties as has happened in the past. The industry needs to transform at a faster rate than before and we need to win back our government’s trust that has been strained with the recent ‘collusive tendering’.”

“In order to build a sustainable South Africa, there are a number of influences, practices, services and minds that need to collaborate to formulate a plan and long term goals. This is precisely the reason for a congress like this – a congress of minds from various backgrounds, coming together to promote a culture and set goals to build the foundation for a sustainable South Africa,” said Cozens.

The presentations delivered throughout the day covered a broad range of topics including job creation, the state of South African education and the world and local economy amongst others. Some of the day’s highlights were the presentations made by Deputy Minister of the Department of Labour, Inkosi Sango Patekile Holomisa; Professor Jonathan Jansen, Vice Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State; Dr Azar Jammine, Director and Chief Economist of Econometrix and Clem Sunter, business author and scenario specialist.

Holomisa delivered the day’s keynote address in which he shared, “It is said that developing countries around the world such as Taiwan, Pakistan and the Philippines all report massive revenues, multiple projects and generally a boom in their construction industry. On the other hand, the contention is that South Africa is at pains to postpone projects thereby trying to prevent the industry from going bust.” He listed a number of reasons for this, which included: the fact that South Africa was hit hard by the global recession and is still trying to recover from the effects; construction projects that were already ongoing had to be cancelled immediately due to rising costs; the increasing frequency of accidents and fatalities on-construction sites which could have been prevented had companies strictly adhered to regulations on occupational health and safety measures; the lack of a skilled and experienced workforce.

“We are deeply concerned about occupational health and safety standards in this sector. Lately, we have witnessed too frequently the collapse of buildings, resulting in many people losing their lives. According to the Department of Labour’s report on occupational health and safety incidents in 2013/14, there were 230 fatal incidents, 780 non-fatal incidents and 12 non-casualty incidents. This is totally unacceptable – one death on the construction site is one too many, as some of these can be prevented if the industry complies with the minimum standards and desist from taking short-cuts. It has become so dangerous to work in the building and construction sector that a number of workers are still working there out of sheer desperation; if they had a choice they wouldn’t come anywhere near a construction site. A safe and healthy environment will make construction jobs more desirable and continue to contribute towards skills development,” urged Holomisa.

Discussions continued on the second day of the Master Builders South Africa (MBSA) Conference aimed at presenting effective routes towards transformation, improving skills and sustainability of the construction industry.

Tackling the topic of ‘The Skills Dilemma’, Mninawa Ngcobo, Training Manager at the National Home Builder Registration Council (NHBRC), said, “The South African built industry has been experiencing a mixed bag of business conditions during the fourth quarter of 2013 and the first and second quarter of 2014. In this period the industry is recorded as going through a high growth phase owing to an increased number of construction projects and a greater focus on housing projects. In the first quarter of 2014 it showed a percentage growth of 4,9 percent therefore significantly contributing to the GDP. The industry remains key to support the country’s infrastructural development requirements despite the financial challenges of the previous years. The Government’s infrastructure development plan and the ‘new’ Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission are positive signs for future growth in the industry. However, the current reality is indicating that shortage of skills supply and the increasing unemployment figures remain pressing concerns in the current South African economy and the built environment is no exception.”

Some of the remedies that he put forward for addressing the dilemma in skills development in construction included increasing access to training and skills development opportunities, the fundamental transformation of inequalities linked to class, race, gender, age and disability as well as integrating linkages between institutional and workplace learning.

On the issue of the integration of skills development, he said the collaboration of industry and education/training institutions in supporting the country’s infrastructural development requirements is highly imperative as this has the potential to contribute to three strategic areas of GDP, job creation, and transformation. “An integrated approach enables the public sector to harness the expertise and efficiencies that the private sectors, namely the built industry and universities can bring to facilitate a sustainable development and therefore economic growth. The built industry can determine the size and shape of the skills needs and universities can translate these into programmes that address the needs of the private sector.”

Ngcobo also spoke about the promotion and enhancement of professional expertise in the built industry, which he said remains an important cog in the quest to rid the sector of unemployment poverty and inequality.

The 110th annual MBSA Congress will be taking place in Johannesburg in 2015.

Filmed and produced by: www.Concrete.TV – Adrienne Taylor 

Twitter: @_concretetv
www.Concrete.TV – a dynamic blend of broadcast style television and WebTV, covering: news, projects, products, people, countries and events for the concrete and construction industry.

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