It has indeed been a pleasure to be here with you today, on my first participation just a few weeks after assuming office. It is particularly pleasing to have been invited to address you for this session where stakeholders such as yourselves are gathered. I am hopeful that this marks the start of a long term relationship.
I submit my great appreciation to the conveners for the excellent and thought- provoking theme. The robust discussions and reflections have provided many of us in leadership positions with an opportunity to learn - but also - to start deep reflections on the future of the construction and infrastructure delivery sector.
Our responsibility is to respond to the socio economic challenges of joblessness, high numbers of unskilled citizens, and delivering on state of the art, world class public infrastructure. This requires a balancing act second to none where we don’t heavily rely on outdated methods of building infrastructure, and make the transition from the old to the new while taking our people along. So while we enter into agreements of teaching basic skills in the built environment such as bricklaying, we need to, together with other partners, revolutionise the way we deliver much needed assets.
Agenda 2063 and the SDGs are really about challenging, changing and fundamentally disrupting the status quo. The built environment and its entire value chain from planning to delivery and occupation is still dominated by the old guard. Whether this is represented by a gender or a race, the fact is that it has not been tampered with enough.
Gauteng, in particular, has over the years experienced rapid urbanization and high population density. Infrastructure delivery, therefore, remains a game changer. It is, therefore, beyond doubt, that the future holds major challenges – and we need the solutions of the future today. I don’t have the answers – but I am encouraged by the outcomes of the discussions this morning.
In my own opinion - all the key players in this sector need to consider that the future will require a commitment to bold solutions. These, should include increased capital investments, strategic partnerships in our delivery value-chain as well as medium to long-term project pipelines. We also need to start focusing on delivering on time, within cost, and with greater efficiencies. Most importantly we need to ensure that decision making is based on the needs of the communities we serve. Therefore, let us not forget that a social pact with our citizens is a strategic imperative.
We as the Department of Infrastructure and Property Management are excited that, despite the economy facing challenges globally, the continent continues to produce construction projects that contribute to changing lives. Our Department is responsible for construction, maintenance as well as property management. Having added Property Management to our mandate, the government of Gauteng is demonstrating its seriousness about the management and maintenance of all our properties. I am sure you will agree with me that this development will allow us to impact the life-cycle of our projects positively, and my vision is really to position this department as a serious player in the property space.
Seeing all of you here reminds us that our economy as a country and a continent can only grow if we work innovatively and seek ground-breaking solutions that face us individually and collectively.
We are having this Expo during Youth Month and it is my commitment to make sure that as a Department we encourage and support youth participation into the construction and built industries. I implore you to go back and make it your mission too to invest in youth so they too may take up careers in the industry. This includes making information on subjects in the sector more accessible and interesting enough for the youth.
The continent is young and female.
Youth in Africa constituted 19% of the global youth population in 2015, numbering 226 million. This also makes it the youngest continent globally. Even though youth unemployment will certainly differ from country to country, I can confidently say that it is cause for concern and a challenge we must all work towards eradicating.
One of the things I have instructed my team to do urgently is to set up a sector advisory panel that will include among others, the youth, industry experts, women in construction and property management and formations representing people with disabilities.
Our sector, ladies and gentlemen, has the opportunity to stimulate economic growth and create employment opportunities. Whenever a project is undertaken, it not only benefits the direct clients. It has the potential of changing the lives of ordinary people in a meaningful way. Agenda 2063 will only be realized if we are consistent, intentional and actively working to achieve all the goals we set out for ourselves. I commit my Department to doing its part to ensure these goals and objectives become a reality.
I look forward to engaging with you individually as we continue to grow the sector. I also look forward to our next gathering where I challenge us to bring tangible progress when we meet again next year.
In keeping with the old African adage that says, if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
May we embrace this as a principle in all we do and build a better Africa and world.