CIOB Africa president Bridgette Gasa
As all eyes turn to South Africa for the World Cup, the country’s construction industry will be enjoying a breathing space between delivering five new-build stadia, including Johannesburg’s Soccer City (above) and a planned three-year government investment programme in the country’s infrastructure worth an estimated £87bn (1 trillion ZAR).
It has now been announced that CIOB Africa president Bridgette Gasa will play a key role in advising the government on how its investment should be spent. Gasa has been appointed to an influential committee that will determine priorities over the next 20 years.
The independent National Planning Commission was announced by President Jacob Zuma last year to draft a long-term strategic development plan for South Africa. It will report directly into the cabinet and has been described as the “nerve centre” of government policy-making by its chair, national planning minister Trevor Manuel.
The Commission, whose members were announced on 30 April, includes 26 experts from many different fields. It will advise government ministers on issues such as the structure of the economy, infrastructure, food and water security, energy, education, defence and security.
Gasa, 33, is the youngest member of the Commission. “It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done in South Africa,” she told CM. “It’s great from the point of view of the CIOB, as even though we’re appointed in an individual capacity, the institution has provided a platform from which I can be recognised as an expert in the field.”
At the Commission’s second meeting on 23 June – the same day England will hopefully be celebrating a victory over Slovenia – Gasa is due to join the working group on infrastructure development and climate change. Top of its agenda will be the problem of electricity generation – power outages are common in South Africa as the country has outgrown its network capacity due to the rapid pace of urbanisation in recent years.
Gasa was unanimously nominated as president of CIOB Africa in 2008, the first woman president in its history. She is chief executive of project management consultancy Elilox Trading, and received South Africa’s prestigious Leading Woman Scientist in Industry award from the Department of Science and Technology in 2008.
Gasa was speaking to CM just ahead of the 2010 Construction Summit in Johannesburg, hosted jointly by the CIOB and the country’s Construction Industry Development Board.
She anticipated that infrastructure investment would be a key item on the agenda. “We have never seen investment on this scale and now we need to talk about how the industry can tap into this, and how do we do it in such a way that everybody benefits, not just a few companies. There are more than 104,000 contractors on the CIOB’s register, some big, some small. We also want to deliver benefits for communities, and leave them changed rather than just making a quick buck.”