Although tough economic conditions are having an impact on the construction industry, the urgent need for infrastructure development in Southern Africa still makes it possible for companies such as Inyatsi Construction to be awarded with tenders for large projects. Continoulsy working towards improving infrastructure development in Africa.
The construction industry makes a sizeable contribution to the economy and creates many employment opportunities. However, the industry has been experiencing a slump during the past seven years, after growth between 2004 and 2007 before the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Since 2008 there has been a contraction, with investment falling by 11.8% year-on-year in 2010. Investment has not grown significantly since then, with an average annual increase of 0.2% between 2011 and 2013.
In spite of this, Inyatsi Construction is still showing growth as a result of restrategising and diversifying four years ago with operations in Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique, as well as its registered companies in Botswana and Namibia,.
“We widened our focus to include civil work, bridge construction, buildings and township infrastructure and high quality, fast-track houses, while before we focused mainly on roads and earthworks,” says Dave Roberts, CEO of Inyatsi Construction. “Inyatsi Construction has completed many large civil projects in the countries where it operates and has made a large contribution to growing infrastructure in these countries.”
One of the most recent tenders for infrastructure development awarded to Inyatsi Construction is for the construction of an operating theatre suite and a new maternity ward at Mkhuzweni Health Centre, in the Hhohho region of Swaziland. The project is part of a government drive to reduce child and maternal mortality.
Inyatsi Construction also won the tender to construct the Manzini to Mbadlana Road, which includes the reconstruction and upgrading of the highway with two lanes in each direction. This project includes civil and earth works, and forms part of the country’s plans for economic and social development through the development of roads and improvement of the surface transportation network.
About 3% of the workforce in the construction industry in Southern Africa consists of women, with most of them employed in administrative positions such as finance and human resources. Women with the necessary skills for these positions are readily available in the market, making entry into the industry easier for them. One the other hand, only about 1% of the technical workforce consists of women.
The construction industry has always been perceived as a male-enshrined sector, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, as most of the work required physical strength. However, this perception has started to change because we have seen a slight increase in women taking interest in this sector.
It must be kept in mind that an interest in the construction industry should already start in high school for both men and women, with preparation for university studies in this field. This requires breaking of cultural norms that segregate jobs based on gender. Entry into the industry is similar to entry for men entering the industry, although most organisations give preferential treatment to women where possible in an endeavour to achieve gender balance. Governments have also assisted with legislation to promote gender equality in the industry.
There are no limits to positions women can fill in the industry and it can even be said that women are even better at some tasks than men. Therefore a mind shift from a chauvinistic approach to a focus on skills and capability is required to inform policies and procedures in the industry. In the 21st century, most construction work is done by machinery, which does not require physical strength.
The biggest challenge women of the region face is the culture where people believe that men should not take instructions from women. In a comparison of gender equality in the countries where Inyatsi Construction operates, it must be noted that different cultures and nations view different jobs in different ways. In Mozambique for example, men often work as domestic house workers and cooks, but in a country such as Swaziland, these are considered women’s chores.
More women must be attracted into the industry to show that construction also offers opportunities for women. Job shadowing and career fairs can be used to do this and Inyatsi has partnered with various secondary schools where students are exposed to the core skills required in the construction industry, such as civil engineering, quantity surveying and land surveying.
As a company we are also sensitive to gender balance and all women applicants with qualifications in related core skills are given an opportunity to join Inyatsi. We are serious about the fact that empowering women in construction must not simply be window dressing. Each employee receives the support, training and coaching necessary to perform before they are assessed.
The construction industry is a major contributor to GDP and a major stimulus for sustained economic growth and a catalyst for job creation. African women are responsible for 70% of food crop production, 50% of animal husbandry, 60% of marketing and 100% of cooking in addition to child care and other household responsibilities, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation. While they fulfil such an important role in society, why are they under-represented in the construction industry where they could fulfil a critical role in the determination of the rate of economic growth and sustainable socio-economic development?