By Frans Pienaar, Chairman of Inyatsi Construction
Africa’s fast and sustained economic growth over the past two decades has so far not improved social outcomes in most countries. According to Tralac, a capacity-building organisation active in east and southern Africa, high levels of poverty and inequality persist - caused by differences in income, gender, ethnicity and age - because the nature of growth is mainly capital-intensive, with limited job creation and unfair redistribution of economic gains.
The biggest African socio-economic issues are mass poverty and the inability of the poor to change this. Frustration is building up, especially in South Africa, coupled with hopelessness as most people find it impossible to build a better life. If hope is lost, people have very little else to lose, which could easily lead to unpredictable behaviour.
Statistics give a clear picture of the extent of the problem. Only 28 percent of the population of Africa has stable jobs, while rapid urbanisation makes infrastructure development and better education critical issues. Ineffective government regulation also exacerbates the problem.
Making a difference
At Inyatsi, we are working to address the African socio-economic challenge by mobilising our workforce and their extended families to make a difference in society. We believe we can all make a difference if we are prepared to engage with society in everyday life in communities, which includes being active in non-governmental organisations, schools, churches and other community organisations. If many people work to make a small difference, the result will be a big difference.
These differences are created through job creation, infrastructure development, training, corporate social investment and promotion of wellness. Job creation through the various projects funded by our clients is an example of how a small difference becomes a big difference. For every employee, an additional seven people benefit. Therefore Inyatsi currently positively impacts more than 20,000 lives in Africa.
Infrastructure development through projects connecting various areas improves the lives of people when businesses have better access to goods and services. A detailed and effective training programme also makes people more employable. Our comprehensive corporate social investment programme gives back to communities in areas of our operation through various initiatives. These include the donation of blankets to the needy, environmental programmes such as planting indigenous trees, training and the up-skilling of students by donating computer labs and stamping out malaria through the mosquito net campaign. In addition, utilising our work force and their families to make a difference in their communities will create a wave of good will and bring a lasting change.
New African Contract
Wellness is also important to Inyatsi. Its extensive wellness programme includes the provision of medical aid for employees and their families, monthly tool-box talks and wellness sessions, free voluntary counselling and testing for HIV, one subsidised fully balanced meal a day and counselling.
All these initiatives require that we, through thorough and strategic planning on all levels, identify potential risks that could affect the organisation and its stakeholders, and actively keep our ear on the ground to adapt to the business landscape.
We adapt to the African landscape through our New African Contract, where each market and client is handled according to his needs and priorities. In order to do this, we form a relationship with each client and strive to be flexible in meeting their needs. We also assist by providing the most efficient solutions to meet client needs that were overlooked in the past, which could also mean savings for the client.
The New Africa Contract is based on relationships as opposed to the traditional first-world contract, which assumes that everything works and that one largely operates with known factors. The first-world model is often based on inaccurate presumptions that are not applicable or achievable in developing economies. Circumstances change continuously in developing economies and a more flexible method of dealing with change can reduce cost and conflict and the New African Contract makes provision for this.
This means that we also have to manage the complexities of business ethics differently with the New African Contract. However, it is important to note that business ethnics are not compromised in the New African Contract, but our and our clients’ needs are addressed. The relationship remains professional, but contains more flexibility in achieving the overall objectives.
It is therefore important that the whole process is based on trust with a long term view. At Inyatsi, we do not try to win short term battles, but rather cooperate and build long term relationships to deliver with the future in mind. We endeavour to be flexible and use the existing structures to approve the process of working together in a new way, provided there is the political will to achieve the change.
It is a business imperative to transform the country we operate in, along with the construction industry, because regulations are controlled by governments. To change the industry, your country needs to be on board.
It is also important for construction companies to invest in their current and prospective employees and up-skill employees to create additional empowerment opportunities. Organisational goals can only be achieved by a competent workforce. Employees who have been developed are more satisfied with their work, thereby increasing productivity and profitability. Therefore it is important to identify, analyse, initiate, administer and monitor skills levels and development to foster employee alignment to the vision, mission and objectives of the company.
Training helps employees to be successful in their current and future jobs by meeting performance requirements, focusing on specific skills required for the current need and future needs, and ensuring a competitive advantage.
Skills development and the resulting employment equity component is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry in Africa, because most employers still fail to appreciate the real problems, We have to begin somewhere and stop ignoring realities. The private sector can do much more to drive this process, but there are very few incentives. That is why they would rather poach skills from other companies because they believe it takes too long to develop skilled workers ourselves.
We do not believe in this approach. If authorities provided proper incentives to the private sector to take charge of training and development, a huge transformation would follow. However, we should not wait for government. If we are serious about changing our world, we should take charge and make a difference today. The private sector should plan for the long term and schedule training and development accordingly. We will not only benefit from the direct skills available, but, if business makes a credible effort, employee loyalty will improve, creating a platform for better efficiencies.
An appreciated workforce that is cared for is a happy workforce, which ensures an effective workforce. They will go the extra mile and the returns will be far greater than the investment. We have to start the process. The number of engineers at Inyatsi today can be directly linked to a process of searching and developing skills and encouraging employees to better themselves.