CESA’s Infrastructure Indaba issues a call to action for a resilient and sustainable engineering future

CESA’s Infrastructure Indaba issues a call to action for a resilient and sustainable engineering future

19 March 2024 – The first day of the Infrastructure Indaba, hosted by Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA), in Cape Town, kicked off with fervent discussions, aimed at steering the engineering landscape towards a future of resilience and sustainability. Leaders and experts from various sectors converged to deliberate on pressing issues and chart a course towards robust infrastructure development.

One of the key discussions focused on the scarcity of engineers in South Africa. The challenge persists, underscored by terms such as “brain drain,” “mass exodus of engineers,” and the broader “skills shortage,” as outlined by Darren Pillay, Principal Bridge & Structural Engineer at Knight Piésold, during his presentation.

Pillay disclosed statistics revealing a troubling trend: engineers aged between 30-50 are either leaving the country or transitioning to different fields, posing challenges for transformation and capacity building while raising questions about underlying reasons and global impacts on the engineering profession. “Addressing this phenomenon requires a multi-faceted approach, encompassing global trends, emigration motivations, and strategies for retaining and nurturing engineering talent within the country.”

Further, Lindiwe Madonsela, Senior Manager of Compliance at the B-BBEE Commission, shed light on the pervasive challenge of fronting within the construction sector, emphasising its extreme prevalence across all sectors and construction’s substantial share of fronting complaints. Tumelo Thothela, Director at ROMH, and Themba Mhambi, Chairperson of SANRAL, stressed the importance of intentional transformation for fostering meaningful growth among SMMEs, enhancing skills and competency, generating sustainable employment opportunities, and improving service delivery. The Transformation and Capacity Building session was facilitated by Jabulile Msiza, CESA Board member and Director: HOD – Waste Department, Jones & Wagener.

Transitioning to the discussion on “Infrastructure Upgrade, Investment, and Development in an era of Climate Change,” facilitated by Logashri Sewnarain, a CESA Board Member and CEO of SMEC South Africa, the discourse delved into the intersection of infrastructure development and climate change mitigation.

Dr. Christie Viljoen, Senior Economist at PwC, highlighted the interconnectedness between today’s disruptions and the megatrends shaping society’s long-term trajectory, of which one critical trend is climate change, which he believed presents opportunities for engineering solutions through mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Chuene Ramphele, Group Executive: IDD at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, emphasised the importance of cooperation and shared responsibility in infrastructure delivery, urging stakeholders to leverage emerging best practices to mitigate climate risks effectively. Presenting groundbreaking research on climate change impacts in infrastructure development, Refiloe Mokoena, Dr. Njabulo Siyakatshana, and Vuyo Ndayi,from the CSIR, underscored the critical role of innovation in adaptation – advocating for collaborative efforts to engineer a sustainable future.

Meanwhile, Professor Marianne Vanderschuren, Deputy Dean Transformation and Social Responsiveness, at the University of Cape Town, explained that overall, the City of Cape Town faced a risk of R20 billion to its transport infrastructure.” “If we factor in hospitals, schools, and major workplaces, this figure escalates to R53 billion. The city of Cape Town needs to scrutinize the details and commence planning for the impending climate change risks. There is an urgent need to establish a contingency fund to ensure it possesses the financial resources to manage disasters effectively.”

A discussion on “Engineering the Future – Protecting Lives and Livelihoods” was facilitated by Naomi Naidoo, a CESA Board Member and founder of Pink Africa Consulting Engineers, who set the tone for the day’s proceedings.

David Leukes, CESA President and Managing Director of BVi Consulting Engineers; Dr. Nelson Ogunshakin, Chief Executive of FIDIC; Alderman Eddie Andrews, Executive Deputy Mayor of the City of Cape Town, and Michael Hendrickse, Chief Engineer and Acting Senior Manager at the Western Cape Government Department of Infrastructure, participated in the robust discussions of this session.



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