The South African government has made 2012 the year for infrastructure, on the basis that the build programme will alleviate poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Stanley Subramoney, Chairperson of the NEPAD Business Foundation and Deputy CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes that government's focus on infrastructure is correct. "What we find as a nation is that we are now competing across the globe and competing aggressively with other emerging economies. The key to survival is our ability to drive down the cost of business and to make sure we get our goods to market as cheaply and soon as possible. So building an efficient logistics infrastructure to get our products to market is crucial."
Subramoney believes it's important for government to think laterally about current projects and to build infrastructure that leverages long term and sustainable economic growth. "The key to these projects must be the ability to stimulate business, create jobs, grow the economy and support long term development. So a word of caution is that as we start to roll out these projects, some of the measurable will have to be our ability to generate jobs, especially our ability to generate more small-to-medium-enterprises," says Subramoney.
South Africa's current skills shortage poses a major challenge to the rapid roll-out of government's build programme, but working with the private sector can bring in the necessary skills as well as additional funding. Subramoney believes government should prioritise working with the private sector in its roll-out of infrastructure projects. "As we go forward, there has to be a smart partnership with the private sector. The private sector in SA is robust, they have got the skills, but they also have the ability to bring in skills from the outside. I would encourage that as we start to dive deeper into these projects, that we look at stronger and smarter partnerships to make sure that the best skills in the world are made available in the country " he says.
The private sector is a ready and willing partner to government's infrastructure projects, but they would need certainty says Subramoney. "What the private sector needs from government's side is a partnership, more certainty and government's willingness to work with them on a medium to long-term basis. I think this will provide a lot of stability to the private sector, it'll allow them to shape their business plans, it'll allow them to invest, to employ more people and to train them and hopefully help government fight this battle against poverty and unemployment."
The 2012 Infrastructure Africa Business Forum will provide both public and private sector stakeholders the opportunity to explore partnerships that will build this key sector of the economy and maximise economic growth, not only in South Africa, but across the continent. The conference is hosted by the NEPAD Business Foundation, in partnership with Siyenza Management.
In this exciting time in South Africa, the conference is an opportunity not to be missed, says Subramoney. "It's a coming together of people in the infrastructure space, whether they are in building, construction, funding, suppliers and other stakeholders. It's up to them to come together and to take advantage of the opportunities unfolding in the sector. This is a unique opportunity, so we urge stakeholders to attend it, to embrace it and hopefully leave it enriched."
Siyenza Management's Managing Director, Liz Hart says, "We are delighted to be partnering with the NEPAD Business Foundation to host the annual Infrastructure Africa Business Forum event. The purpose is to create added value for corporates to participate in the various infrastructure projects in Africa and this business forum provides the perfect platform to find out more about the projects, how to access these industry specific markets and to improve their bottom-line."
The forum will also address the policy and regulatory framework to boost investor confidence and find a way speed up the pace of infrastructure developments at ground level. New potential areas to provide financial assistance as well as access to finance to the infrastructure players will also be explored.
Says Hart, "The partnership between the NBF and Siyenza provides added value in that this will bring the public sector closer to the forum as well as tapping into the work that the NEPAD Business Foundation is already currently working with."
Key sectors to be featured at the 2012 event include: Power & Energy, Transport - Roads / Rail / Ports / Air, Water & Sanitation, Agriculture and ICT & Telecommunication.
Siyenza Management recently hosted its fourth annual Africa Energy Indaba where Minister of Energy, Ms.Dipuo Peters was the keynote speaker. The event was presented by the South African National Energy Association (SANEA) in association with the World Energy Council (WEC), and as such the forum has achieved the highest level of endorsement from the WEC and is the leading energy event in Africa. At that event, 250 delegates were in attendance and an exhibition was hosted with 85 exhibitors drawn globally. The NBF and Siyenza are confident of repeating the level of interest with the Infrastructure Africa Business Forum 2012.
The 2-day business forum will bring together Africa's senior business leaders, policy makers, regulators and media to advance debate and champion delivery of Africa's infrastructure requirements.