Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said practical strategies were required in the construction sector to significantly increase empowerment outputs in a measurable and sustainable way, adding that the role of all participants was critical in this regard.
He was speaking at a Construction Transformation Summit in Johannesburg, which brought together participants at all levels of the construction sector including among others, contractors, government infrastructure clients, built environment professionals, academics, politicians and policy makers.
The gathering, organised by the Public Works Department and its entities, such as the Construction Industry Development Board (cidb), the Independent Development Trust (IDT), Agrément South Africa and the Council for the Built Environment (CBE) was aimed at reviewing the slow pace of transformation in the construction sector, looking at government policies and implementation, as well as the role of the private sector in facilitating meaningful empowerment.
According to the Construction Industry Development Board (cidb), only 25 per cent of professionals in the construction sector are black, with few graduates getting placed as candidates to qualify for professional status since the start of democracy in 1994. The cidb says emerging black and female contractors are still predominantly concentrated in the lower echelons of the entity's Register of Contractors between Grades 1 and 6, while the higher Grades 7 to 9 remain largely dominated by the white established contractors.
Addressing the summit, Minister Nxesi said that procurement practices in the public sector must play a significant role to translate increased government spending on infrastructure into meaningful empowerment opportunities for the black emerging sector. "Currently in the contracting sector the majority of construction projects target large established contractors in the CIDB Grades seven (7) to nine (9), with fewer opportunities available for lower end contractors where competition is tougher," says the Minister.