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Infrastructure Development & Maintenance – Key to a Functional & Flourishing Economy

22 March 2022 | “Business cannot operate effectively, or sustainably, in a society that is crumbling around us.” These were the words of Ryan Ravens, CEO, Accelerate Cape Town (ACT) at a recent convening between Western Cape business and key government infrastructure representatives earlier this week.

Special guests included Department of Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia De Lille and Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Head of the Investment & Infrastructure Office at The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa.

Organised by ACT (a business leadership organisation representing top-tier corporate business in the province) and sponsored by Mazars South Africa (an international, integrated and independent firm, specialising in audit, accountancy, advisory and tax services), attendees across the Western Cape’s private sector had the opportunity to hear first-hand current and future developments pertaining to South Africa’s infrastructure landscape.

Areas touched on included developments over the last two years, projects currently underway, future project pipelines and the need to boost investor confidence. Further, the need not only for infrastructure development but, as critically, infrastructure maintenance and the repurposing of existing infrastructure, where possible, was emphasised.  The private sector also called for greater transparency from government on potential future infrastructure projects as well as an ‘easier’ way of engagement with less red tape and bureaucracy.

Discussions also included the reconfiguring of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and its new approach to infrastructure delivery, together with the establishment of Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) under Dr Ramokgopa’s leadership.

Part of this new approach has seen the development of an anti-corruption unit, with a greater emphasis on internal due diligence. In addition, for every potential project now tabled – a thorough ‘project preparation’ evaluation is now conducted. This – to ascertain potential weaknesses and, by so doing, ensure each project’s viability thereby reducing the scope for project derailment or failure – an all-too-common previous occurrence.

At the heart of infrastructure delivery in South Africa, lies the National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050) recently adopted by Cabinet. Focusing on the four critical areas of energy, freight transport, water, and digital infrastructure – its goal is to create a solid foundation upon which to achieve the National Development Plan’s (NDP) objective and vision of inclusive growth. Whilst highlighting the most critical areas for improvement and much-needed delivery across South Africa’s public infrastructure, with intended short-term impact and outcomes, a longer-term strategy as we move towards 2050 forms a key part.

Infrastructure spending has a stimulatory effect on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For South Africa to reach its NDP goal of investing 30% of GDP in infrastructure, would require a spend of R4.1Billion every day! The scale of this challenge is almost incomprehensible – it equates to a new solar plant powering 20000 homes, or a new university, every day. There has arguably never been a more important time for business and government to work together. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) are essential in realising our country’s much-needed infrastructure development and maintenance and, by so doing, re-energise the national economy.

“As an organisation, we are very passionate about the Western Cape. Nothing is more important than playing a role in its economic growth – with a strong focus on both infrastructure and job creation. Whilst Covid-19 may have slowed things down, we are confident that there is a very healthy and promising infrastructure development pipeline in the Western Cape,” says Michelle Olckers, Co-CEO of Mazars South Africa, and the Managing Partner of Mazars Cape Town.

“High-quality infrastructure projects are vital to our economic recovery and key to the development and prosperity of our region. This is due to its multiplier effect on restoring growth, creating new jobs, and protecting livelihoods,” continues Ravens. “We look forward to more meaningful collaborations between our public and private sector over the coming months.”

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