In South Africa, we are never short of stories grabbing front-page headlines, from the new President of the ruling party, who has now taken the helm of the Republic and appears to be a firm favourite, to the dreaded ‘D-day’ water shortage in Cape Town being averted (for the time being). So too should some of our exploits in the infrastructure world.
Cast your minds back to the period in South Africa between 2004 and 2010. You will all recall some form of infrastructure, either new or improved, being designed and built on your doorstep as South Africa prepared to welcome the world’s football fans at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Other than the panic mechanics who were worried that stadiums, airports, roads, hotels, and almost everything else would not be ready, there were thousands of engineers working behind the scenes to deliver billions of Rand worth of infrastructure just in time for the curtains to be raised – and raise them we did in truly rainbow nation style.
We hosted a superb world-class event. It is called Nation Building, and engineers played a massive part in doing just that.
Eight years later, it may be easy to forget about these talented people with no global showpiece looming (no Commonwealth Games or Rugby World Cup for the time being). But they have not disappeared, they are still churning out innovative solutions to societal challenges on a daily basis, perhaps not so much in the public eye anymore, or perhaps not in South Africa.
One of the key reasons that South African citizens have not noticed mega infrastructure is because we are failing to implement our National Development Plan – Vision 2030. While this document makes perfect sense and was compiled by the best of the best, it cannot be implemented without some serious financial backing.
We (our fiscus) simply cannot afford to do everything we need to do right now. It has been and will continue to be the major challenge faced by our national leadership team. Eradicating poverty, increasing people in the mainstream economy, education, housing, and the list goes on.
Many are looking to President Ramaphosa to provide hope and inspiration and to give South Africa the next quantum leap forward in its young democracy. For the time being, the infrastructure boom that many engineers were hoping for is not in South Africa.
So what more can you do? Well, a lot. Be fearless in exploring what is out there. Many global firms offer attractive opportunities for talent to move around the globe to be involved with the delivery of key infrastructure projects, to apply their unique expertise, train and develop others to make a difference to the world in which we all live.
As someone who has recently taken up this challenge with a specific focus on South Asia, it has been a truly rewarding and inspiring journey.
South African engineers are world class and are engaged on Nation Building projects across the globe. Go on, take up the challenge and play
your part in major infrastructure development happening across the globe.
Fear not, “Our Beloved Country” will always be there to welcome us back with open arms at the time of the next big infrastructure boom.