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Doing good while doing business

Bigen Africa hones its social-development capability towards delivery of NDP


In a move to hone its ability to assist public and private clients to achieve their infrastructure and social and economic development objectives, leading African infrastructure development company Bigen Africa entered into a partnership with social development company Tshikululu Sustainable Solutions.

“Our objective is to optimise the impact of our social-development activities, because the value of infrastructure development goes far beyond commercial gain – it includes the sustainable and socially desirable benefits it offers communities.  Infrastructure should provide access to services, reduce poverty, build capacity and generate opportunities for increased economic participation and employment. Tshikululu has the experience and skills to optimise our social investments to the benefit of communities in the areas where we manage projects,” says Dr Snowy Khoza, Bigen Africa chief executive officer.

“Tshikululu is excited by the prospect of working with Bigen Africa. Bigen Africa’s social focus is aptly described by their vision, to develop sustainable infrastructure to improve the quality of life, and underpinned by their pay-off line, doing good while doing business,” says Dr Mthandazo Ngwenya, Tshikululu managing director. “This resonates with our own belief of making a lasting social and economic difference to communities.”

At Bigen Africa, project proposals to customers contain five key elements, namely equity, local content and participation, empowerment and transformation outcomes, cultural preservation and social mobility and improvements in quality of life. The company combines these elements to optimise the economic, social and environmental development impact of the project for customers and the communities that benefit from the projects.

Anton Boshoff, Bigen Africa chief operating officer, recalls the Bigen Africa learning curve towards achieving sustainability.

“We worked at root level with people who were not exposed to normal employment opportunities, in rural areas such as Winterveldt, Mabopane, Garankuwa, Temba, Gianyi , Transkei, Venda, Kwandebele. We overcame challenges of the time and to learn the languages, cultures and customs. We realised that infrastructure becomes more sustainable if one is sensitive to local participation – and that local participation can escalate to local economic participation, which can lead to local economic development.

“For these reasons, we set ourselves stringent targets for the business and the impact of our projects on the lives of the communities that we work in. These targets are linked to job creation, meaningful local economic participation in projects through a range of initiatives that focus mainly on SMME development, targeted procurement to include women and the youth, community liaison to improve communication to communities through ward councillors, and local labour emancipation and remuneration management in consultation with the larger contractors, SMME’s and ward councillors,” says Mr Boshoff.

He says the Tshikululu-Bigen partnership offers a holistic approach through best practice focussed on outcomes-orientated solutions that offer customers peace of mind.

“Tshikululu achieves success by helping its clients to develop social development strategies that are designed to achieve meaningful, positive, and long-lasting change. We develop customised performance-management systems and plan for improvement by conducting specialist reviews of individual projects and broader programmes. These three elements foster understanding of the impact of social-investment initiatives,” says Dr Ngwenya.

Tshikululu currently manages five of the top ten corporate funds with the greatest development impact as ranked by NPOs and three of the top 10 as ranked by corporates in South Africa. The company has more than R2 billion under fund management and has achieved unqualified audits from Deloitte for the past 17 years.

Bigen Africa has been involved with mega projects throughout Africa and has recently expanded its legal and physical presence from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana to include Zambia and Ghana.

“The experience and objectives of both Bigen Africa and Tshikululu make them ideal to participate in the government’s National Development Plan, an ambitious project that aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030,” says Dr Khoza.

The plan will be project-managed to draw on the energies of the South African people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society. This will result in creating more jobs, empowering people through skills development, expanding economic infrastructure, developing sustainable communities and advancing social cohesion.

At this stage, government plans for infrastructure spend over the next three years include:

  • R38 billion on basic education infrastructure;
  • R108 billion for public housing;
  • R102 billion on water resources and bulk infrastructure; and
  • R30 billion to strengthen and improve the national non-toll road network.

Bigen Africa has been lauded for its meaningful contribution to social and economic development. The company bases its decisions on a social development theory adopted by South Africa and most African countries in infrastructure development, namely to achieve qualitative changes in the structure and framework of households, communities, societies and countries to better realise their aims and objectives in improving the quality of life. The company strives to drive social and economic change through a better understanding, knowledge and application of clients’ expectations of development impacts.

“This approach supports the essence of sustainable development as expressed in a frequently-used definition, namely to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” says Dr Khoza.

Examples of sustainable-development projects undertaken by Bigen Africa include:

  • The Roodeplaat Temba Water Supply Scheme within the Pienaars River Government Water Scheme and the Zeekoegat Waste Water Treatment Plant, which created construction jobs to local labourers, a reduction in water services backlogs and the drastic improvement in the quality of water provided, which improved the quality of life of community members.
  • The upgrading and extension of the water and sewage treatment works and the utilisation of local water resources within the Greater Rustenburg Region through the Rustenburg Water Services Trust to provide 28 Ml/day of industrial water to mines and 12 Ml/day of potable water to the Rustenburg Local Municipality. The project created construction jobs and enabled Rustenburg to further develop the town.
  • The construction supervision and administration of the Abstraction, Treatment and Bulk Distribution of Water from the Lower Thukela River to Ilembe District Municipality, which provide the infrastructure required to abstract, treat and distribute raw water from the Thukela River to the existing network to provide water for various district and local municipalities.

Landmark projects undertaken by Tshikululu include:

  • The design and deployment of one of the first capacity-building public-private partnerships in conjunction with Department of Health in the Free State, as a sub-recipient of a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grant. The programme saw district Department of Health managers being mentored by leaders in the private sector. Appetite for the programme has seen it being extended to a further five districts.
  • Tshikululu successfully assisted Scatec Solar in the strategic development and management of its three solar plants under the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. Scatec aspires that each host community comes to value the presence of the renewable energy project as an asset – not only as a producer of environmentally sustainable electricity, but as a significant contributor to the social and economic well-being of the community itself. Tshikululu’s SED management is to be used to guide and inform all SED development in each of the targeted communities going forward.
  • Tshikululu assisted Mainstream, a European wind and solar photo-voltaic producer, to develop a corporate foundation to support educational initiatives and fund a bursary programme, included drafting trust deeds and a strategy for the foundation and developing a bursary programme.

Current projects that can immediately benefit through increased development impact from this partnership include the following:

  • Raising of Clanwilliam Dam by the Department of Water and Sanitation
  • Various large scale integrated housing developments, such as Lufhereng and Leeupoort, delivering in access of 40,000 affordable housing units. (ENDS)