Bigen Africa, a leading infrastructure development group with an established presence in southern Africa and a growing African footprint, continues to play a significant role in closing the infrastructure gap on the continent, despite a troubled global economy.
With its vision of improving the quality of life of all through the development of sustainable infrastructure solutions, Bigen Africa provides engineering, management consulting, development finance and advisory services on cost-effective, sustainable infrastructure projects in several African countries. The group has delivered projects with a combined value of R200 billion over the past decade, operating in the health, education, agriculture, water and sanitation, property, housing, energy, road, rail and mining sectors.
“With over 40 years of experience, much of it obtained on projects ensuring progressive leaps for African countries, Bigen Africa has an in-depth understanding of the infrastructure development needs experienced on the continent and is committed to supporting the African Union agenda in achieving its infrastructure development goals,” says Dr Snowy Khoza, Chief Executive Officer.
Central to the group’s success, in terms of both business achievements and expansion into Africa, is its value proposition to customers, governments and communities – to provide infrastructure development solutions through a holistic approach which encompasses in-house capabilities, strategic partnerships and off-taker needs to optimise project validity and add innovative and sustainable value in integrating the entire value chain in an infrastructure development process. The group’s capabilities range from feasibility studies through project preparation, management and implementation to development finance and ongoing asset management.
The forging of strategic partnerships is key to Bigen Africa’s business approach and the group collaborates not only with African governments, but also with suppliers and project partners which complement the group’s capability range to ensure that clients have access to a “full-service” offering.
“The group’s partnerships strategy is key to its success in achieving technical excellence and innovation,” explains Dr Khoza. “At its annual Partnership Conferences, Bigen Africa strengthens ties with industry delegates from across Africa with a view to forging strategic partnerships. Through these, the group aims to build its capabilities in the renewable energy, development finance, rails, mining and industrial, mechanical engineering and project delivery services.”
Based on Bigen Africa’s contributions to the advancement of infrastructure development in South Africa and on the continent, as well as its innovation, quality, outstanding workmanship and professionalism in the consulting engineering sector, the group recently won three of the seven categories at the annual awards event of Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA). The categories were Business Excellence, Mentoring Company of the Year and Best International Project, with the latter being awarded for Bigen Africa’s work on the 360km North-South Carrier (NSC-2) regional water transfer system in Botswana.
Bigen Africa’s entries in four other categories also qualified for the final round of judging – Mentor of the Year, Young Engineer of the Year, the massive Steyn City residential project in Gauteng, South Africa (project value R50 million to R250 million) and the innovative, “green” Wallacedene taxi rank in Cape Town (project value under R50 million).
CESA is an organisation committed to furthering engineering excellence and the annual awards are the top highlight on the industry’s calendar.
“Bigen Africa is extremely blessed to have received these awards,” says Dr Khoza. “The group is dedicated to ensuring excellence in its operations, changing the lives of millions of Africans and practising its creed of “doing good while doing business” on a daily basis. Receiving accolades such as these is therefore very gratifying and we as a company give all the glory and honour to God Almighty.”
The group has also received many other awards over the years, including previous CESA awards, and has been one of the Top 500 Best Managed South African Companies since 2006.
“Doing good while doing business”
Bigen Africa’s creed of “doing good while doing business” is practised through the employees’ multiple social investment initiatives and is also embodied in the activities of Intuthuko Foundation, the group’s corporate social investment arm.
With support from employees, clients and partners, the group raised R1 million over the past year for donating to several non-profit organisations, both in South Africa and some of the other African countries where it is active.
As far as work and supplier contracts on projects are concerned, Bigen Africa adds value to its business activities by extending, where feasible, such opportunities to local companies in the countries where it is active, as a further boost to local economies.
Besides having 9 well-established branches across South Africa, Bigen Africa has opened offices in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and, most recently, Ghana. From these bases, the group has completed many cost-effective, sustainable infrastructure projects in these countries as well as Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Congo, Lesotho, and Tanzania.
Some of these projects are the provision of electricity for 100 000 rural villagers in Ethiopia; participation in Namibia’s national mass housing development plan; the construction of 30 000 household units for the Ghanaian security forces; the 200ha Luano City development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and phase 2 of the North-South Carrier water transfer scheme in Botswana. The latter entails the implementation of a 330 kilometre-long regional water transfer pipeline, three remote-controlled break pressure tanks, four remote-controlled feeder tanks, a terminal balancing storage reservoir and three pumping stations.
Continuing to expand its African footprint is a major aspect of Bigen Africa’s business strategy, S-Vision 16, which is a five-year guide for both business planning and day-to-day operations.
“This expansion strategy is being achieved with the support of Bigen Africa’s business partners, including the various country partners, to support localisation, indigenisation and regionalisation,” explains Dr Khoza. “Bigen Africa intends to expand into East Africa, through Kenya. The growth strategy into West Africa is spearheaded through the establishment of Bigen Africa Ghana Limited with a first office registered in Accra.”
Human capital development
With its current workforce numbering almost 600, Bigen Africa has a formal employee recruitment, retaining and development strategy in place which is integrated with its growth objectives. The BigenPeople strategy is intended to capacitate the group for growth through building knowledge communities and encouraging multi-skilling, as well as directing employees’ attention towards the group’s S-Vision 16 goals.
“Bigen Africa’s biggest asset is its human capital,” says Dr Khoza. “In an industry where engineering talent is at a premium, the group needs to take a long-term view to ensuring capability. One of the key core values is empowerment, which focuses on the skills development of all employees and strategic partnerships.”
Some of the many programmes in place are study assistance, management and leadership development, succession management, technical expertise development and mentoring. Bigen Africa received industry recognition for its mentoring programme at the CESA Engineering Excellence Awards in 2012, and again in 2015, where it was named Mentoring Company of the Year. At the awards ceremony in 2013, Kobus Viljoen, one of Bigen Africa’s engineers, received the Mentor of the Year Award.
With Bigen Africa’s mission being “to become a thought-leading, multinational infrastructure development consultancy with core capabilities in engineering, management consulting and development finance”, Bigen Africa aims to be progressive in all areas of its business, and this includes environmental responsibility.
“The group’s involvement in South Africa’s first ‘green’ taxi rank, as provider of design and engineering services, is a highlight in its portfolio,” says Dr Khoza enthusiastically. “Bigen Africa utilised innovative conservation principles to render the facility largely self-sufficient in terms of water and energy use – while being able to accommodate some 5 000 commuters and 50 taxi drivers.”
The taxi rank uses alternative energy and water provision systems to ensure considerable savings for the local municipality, such as a rooftop solar photovoltaic panel system, rainwater harvesting and recycling of up to 70 percent of water used. These innovations have culminated in Green Star South Africa awarding the Wallacedene taxi rank a four-star rating which recognises that the facility adheres to the body’s “best practice” guidelines.
With the group’s capabilities ranging from the provision of basic, essential infrastructure to innovation on unique projects – such as Wallacedene and the massive, prestigious Steyn City residential project – Bigen Africa has proven itself up to every design and engineering challenge it has encountered.
“Building on its extensive experience and carefully sourced expertise, and with the support of well-chosen industry partners, Bigen Africa offers a solutions driven approach to clients seeking effective solutions to infrastructure development needs,” affirms Dr Khoza. “The group will continue to strengthen its position as a leader in the industry through its S-2016 strategy, covering business development, strategic partnerships, geographical expansion, corporate restructure, human capital development and financial objectives, thereby ensuring its efficiency in assisting African countries needing to address their key emerging public policy priorities.”