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Built Environment conference critically explores Africa’s construction ‘renaissance’

Africa’s construction industry is booming, but where are the Africans within this building renaissance?
This is the question that will be asked by Dr John Ebohon, one of the international keynote speakers at the Association of Schools of Construction of Southern Africa’s (ASOCSA’s) 10th Built Environment Conference, which takes place in Port Elizabeth from July 31 to August 2.

Themed “Towards a Renaissance”, it is one of only two construction-related conferences in South Africa that has been fully accredited by the Department of Higher Education. This year’s conference is being hosted by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Speakers include academics from universities across South Africa, including several from overseas.

In his keynote address on August 1, Ebohon, who is Director of the Developing World Built and Natural Environment Research Unit at De Montfort University in Leicester, United Kingdom, and is highly-regarded by the international academic community, will talk about his concerns relating to trends within the renaissance taking place in Africa’s construction sector.

“Everywhere one chooses to look on the continent, one is confronted with evidences of a booming construction sector. For example, in 2015, the value of total construction works was estimated at US$375 billion (R5 400 billion), and the number of major construction projects valued above US$50 million (R720 million) increased by 15% on the previous year across Africa.

“In addition to the 95 energy-related projects currently on-going, it is estimated that by 2025, spending on African roads will reach the US$200 billion (R2 900 billion) mark with another US$7 billion dollars (R100 billion) projected for African airports.

“It comes as no surprise, given current trends, to have Africa’s construction sector described as experiencing a renaissance.
“This assumes current periods of revival or renewed and sustained interests in the sector, but the near conspicuous absence of Africans from the renaissance of its construction sector, albeit at the higher added-value end of the construction delivery process, raises some important questions that should be of concerns to all stakeholders in Africa’s construction sector.”

Among the various objectives of the conference are to provide a forum for multi-disciplinary interaction between academics and industry practitioners, and to disseminate innovative and cutting-edge practices that respond to the conference theme.

Speakers from NMMU will include Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Engagement Prof Andrew Leitch, and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology (EBEIT), Dr Oswald Franks, with Professor Emeritus and former Head of the Department of Quantity Surveying, Prof Gaye le Roux, delivering one of the keynote addresses.

Le Roux will also receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the conference’s gala dinner on August 1. At the same event, Vikashnee Harbhajan, from KwaZulu-Natal’s Master Builders Association, will receive an inaugural Leadership Award.

Since the inception of the ASOCSA Built Environment conference series in 2006, the peer-reviewed conference proceedings have been referred to by private and public sector policy and decision makers. The series also produces a conference edition of the sought-after Journal of Construction, which is on the list of journals approved by the Department of Higher Education for subsidy.

The series is endorsed by the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB), one of the largest global built environment research organizations.