A continental shift: Connectivity is key

Africa’s population growth is forecasted to expand from 1.2 billion today, to 2.5 billion by 2050 and, consequently, intensive planning is needed for this unparalleled growth – not just economically, but from an infrastructural perspective as well.

Infrastructure development lays the foundation for economic prosperity and is key for the sustainable development of emerging African economies. Economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, still have some way to go before undergoing the transformation into economic powerhouses like that of their global counterparts. But while governments are pulling out all the stops to take advantage of economic opportunities, fundamental issues stand in the way – the lack of access to healthcare, electricity and technology, among others, are obstacles for the people living and working within emerging economies. Although poor governance, under-performing state-owned enterprises and illegal monetary outflows from corrupt practices can derail an emerging economy, all-encompassing structural development can pave the way to economic prosperity.

Powering emerging economies

Electricity is crucial – not only for the livelihoods of people, but for the economic development of a nation. It’s difficult to comprehend that, in 2018, access to electricity remains a hurdle for millions of people across the continent – today, over 500 million Africans live without electricity! As population growth rises and industrialisation takes its grip, the demand for energy will surge to new heights and the strain on energy generation will need to be offset by increased investment in energy. Renewable energy generation comprises a massive part of this investment – take, for instance, the recent signing of 27 renewable energy, independent power producer (IPP) projects commissioned to generate additional clean capacity, in line with South Africa’s objective to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.

South Africa’s energy generation landscape is dominated by coal-fired power stations, and although they’re on the traditional end of the energy-generation spectrum, these structural behemoths are symbolised as beacons of hope for the millions of people living without electricity, as well as for the economic opportunities they bring to the communities surrounding them. A total of 9 564 MW will be loaded onto the national grid when the Kusele and Medupi power stations come online, exceeding current demand and reducing the power instability. Considering South Africa’s stagnant GDP growth, it is forecasted that the Medupi power station alone will directly grow South Africa’s GDP by approximately 0.35% per year, and the benefit of a reliable and stable energy supply can only improve everyday life of South Africans and empower the commercial endeavours of business, particularly SMEs.

Shaping economies through structural development

If 35% of Africa’s population doesn’t have access to paved roads, what is the likelihood that infrastructure like water pipes are in place to distribute drinking water to communities? The underlying structures that support our cities and municipalities go unnoticed above-ground, but without them, our communities would be left high and dry.

The built environment is experiencing a groundswell of construction and development due to the influx of people in urban areas. The construction of infrastructure, accommodation, offices and public facilities are sky-rocketing and stainless steel is set to become the material of choice for structures, facades and cladding of this type of infrastructure due to its aesthetic appearance, life-cycle costs and recyclability. For instance, NSSC manufactured stainless steel gutters for an automotive plant in South Africa, supplying 15.5 tons of stainless steel material. Due to the corrosive conditions, 304 stainless steel was the best material to use in this application.

Between people and places

The optimal movement of people between residential and commercial or industrial nodes can reduce the economic burden of commuters. Due to the displacement of people to the outskirts of major metropoles, people living in informal settlements in South Africa spend 40% of their income just to get to work and back, while the transport costs in Africa are higher than other developing regions. With inclusivity and optimal movement of people high on the top of lists, town planners and municipalities are rolling out seamless transport and pedestrian networks in city systems to connect people and business. Bus-lanes, cycling routes, walkways and bridges promote pedestrian fluidity and encourage a sustainable transport movement. The Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis Master Plan is a thirty-year planning strategy, focusing on using inter-modal connectivity as the basis for generating economic development.

Cultivating cross-border collaboration

Fostering cross-border business partnerships is important to National Stainless Steel Centre for increasing employment prospects, strengthening businesses, and prospering economies in the SADC region. That’s why we’ll be visiting Zambia to showcase our expertise at Africa’s premier Copperbelt Mining, Industrial and Agricultural Trade Expo, CAMINEX.