Water at heart of Africa’s growth and survival

Africa has the resources — it just has to put them to work for agriculture, manufacturing and power

The biggest threat to Africa’s response to endemic poverty, disease, food insecurity and lack of infrastructure is the poor availability of water and sanitation. The tragedy is that Africa’s main rivers flow too fast and most countries lack the capacity to harvest it, pump it into dams, or properly manage their water resources, so a large amount of fresh water flows directly into the ocean.

Water experts say over 320 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are without access to reliable drinking water sources. Exposure to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene are leading causes of cholera and a variety of infectious and tropical diseases. The situation calls for urgent remedial action if Africa is to meet its development goals, according to construction magnate Simbi Phiri.

Phiri is chairman of Khato Civils and South Zambezi, two of Africa’s leading construction, engineering and infrastructure development companies. The companies’ specialty is water and sanitation projects. Headquartered in South Africa, the company boasts a pool of the highest skills and qualified professionals with broad experience in the areas of fibre optics, mass earthworks, pipelines, water works, roads and concrete works.

South Zambezi specialises in civil and structural engineering. It is a standard bearer for consulting in civil and structural works, quantity surveying, architecture and townplanning, geotechnical works, electrical and mechanical works, and for providing environmental professionals and project and programme management.

“Africa has abundant water resources, but the tragedy is that many countries do not have the capacity and human resources to harvest and manage this resource for the benefit of the people. Large amounts of the Zambezi’s water … one of Africa’s largest rivers … flows into the Indian Ocean. This is a threat to life, economic development and the environment, and as African countries we must come together to reverse the situation. This is simply not sustainable,” said Phiri.

“We need to tap into the water resources, particularly when the rivers are flowing fast. We should build more dams and pump the water to fill 20 to 30 dams. Why should people starve when resources are available?”

Phiri has called on African countries to continue to work together and share financial resources and expertise to ensure that there is sufficient water for food and energy security in the continent.

To that end, Khato Civils and South Zambezi are involved in major water and sanitation projects across the Southern African region, which have made and will make a significant impact on Africa’s water resources to stimulate and sustain growth in the region’s economic development and social transformation.

Among the flagship projects of Khato Civils and South Zambezi in South Africa is a R3-billion water and sanitation project in Mopane district, Limpopo, that reaches 56 villages including Giyani, and will benefit over one million people.

“The project, which involved removing asbestos pipes and laying out new ones made of concrete, was originally slated to be finished in a five-year period. However, due to meticulous planning and cutting- edge execution by our team of engineers and technicians, we will

be able to finish the project in June 2017. That is two years from commencement,” said chief executive of Khato Holdings Mongezi Mnyani.

He said such meticulous execution of the project would go a long way to support government’s drive to partner with the private sector to build sustainable rural livelihoods by promoting industries in these areas.

Another project was in Hammanskraal outside Pretoria, where the companies were involved in laying out a 2.4m diameter sewer pipeline, which was also completed in record time.

Khato Civils and South Zambezi are best positioned to complement each other in delivering world-class, quality, cost effective services to clients by removing parallels in the implementation of projects, from conceptual design through to postconstruction phases.

This turnkey approach means that Khato Civils and South Zambezi have a fully integrated engineering and construction team working together in one stable. This improves understanding and communication among designers and contractors, paving the way for timely delivery, cost savings and international best practice.

Phiri explained that Khato Civils and South Zambezi’s competitive advantage is prudent financial management, which has ensured that the companies are well capitalised and are own financing.

“We have grown our portfolio such that we are very well resourced. We are able to start a project of whatever magnitude without the impediments associated with acquiring the relevant equipment and human capital. Starting a project is usually the most challenging stage for contractors as many have to approach funding institutions, leading to delays and disappointments. Our advantage is that we do not have to approach the banks to negotiate financing for a project. That [speaks volumes about the] prudent financial management of our companies.”

He added that in some instances Khato Civils and South Zambezi approach a project and complete it with the sole aim of utilising the money generated to purchase equipment and increase its assets.

“We are among the few companies that take the conscious decision to use proceeds from a project to pay staff and cater for operational costs, and use the rest to purchase equipment to strengthen our asset base,” he said.

The companies, as a result, have their own heavy plant equipment, an advantage that has eased pressure on assignments.

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