Plumbing Africa August 2018 - Page 79

INDUSTRY MATTERS lines between the northern and southern side of the country, and pipelines to export gas assets — South Africa is ideally placed to support the development of these projects. To put this in context, as Medupi and Kusile power stations have come online, there is a substantive contingent of skilled people who need to be mobilised. Currently, investment into and developme nt of mega power infrastructure projects in South Africa — whether coal, gas or nuclear base-load generation plans — are on hold. Without a continuation of projects in the country, we face a very real risk of losing these crucial skills as these professionals seek valuable employment opportunities in other markets. Through improved regional collaboration between Mozambique and South Africa, South African skilled professionals could bring their experience to work on the projects in Mozambique, not only to help build the gas industry but to transfer needed major infrastructure project skills to local teams. If done correctly, this will enable upskilling within the neighbouring country, developing regional expertise to deliver on these projects as a priority. Additionally, looking at these projects collectively and as part of a regionally integrated plan — rather than looking at each project in isolation — will support the development of the gas-to-power industry within South Africa, thus supporting the co- creation of a regional industry. FOCUS PLACED ON SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE The national government has looked at ways to curb spending over the next three years in an effort to reduce the national budget deficit. And, although there are fewer public projects coming through the pipeline, funding has been allocated in the 2018/19 National Budget for facilitating social infrastructure development. This particularly includes education and health care. 77 In the short to medium term, boosting social infrastructure can have a significant influence on growth in the country. From immediate development opportunities, to improving access to services, they have a powerful impact on quality of life for those previously excluded from the mainstream economy. And, the impact of these projects on society is easily measurable and complementary to the state’s vision for long-term, sustainable, and inclusive growth. Though not traditionally included under the ‘social infrastructure’ heading, telecommunications certainly must be considered a social and growth enabler. And with expansive private sector fibre and Wi-Fi roll-out projects under way across the country, digitalisation presents incredible opportunities for South Africa to leapfrog some of the traditional development trajectories. While in its infancy in South Africa, improving cost-effective Internet access and adopting digital technology could drive radical changes that can boost access to social infrastructure in the short to medium term, such as e-Learning and e-Health services, for example. Furthermore, in the long term, embracing disruptive innovation as part of the process to deliver complex and sustainable projects presents opportunities to implement changes now that will transform how we view and use infrastructure, ensuring that it is enriched and future-proofed. For now; there is some promise for investment under way in primary, secondary, and tertiary infrastructure development. Public and private sector-driven infrastructure projects range across transport, power, water, health care, and education — which, although more localised, are interchangeable with the country’s long-term infrastructure objectives. In relation to this, we are seeing some projects being procured through the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), which is already involved in a number of projects to build schools, hospitals, and clinics. The private sector, and public private partnership (PPP), are also driving a number of projects within these sectors. It is encouraging to see that, despite more subdued growth in the mainstream economy, these developments are still coming to ground. To continue driving investments into each of these sectors, increased engagement and collaboration between public and private sectors must become a priority. It is only when government, private sector, and labour work in unison towards common objectives that we’ll be able to push the boundaries and develop a truly strong network of economic infrastructure. A future-proofed network that will deliver long-lasting benefits for communities, industries, and the economy — and will ensure a future where our society can thrive. PA August 2018 Volume 24 I Number 6