JG Afrika recently achieved a Level 1 Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) rating. This accomplishment, combined with the firm’s 51% empowerment shareholding, reaffirms our commitment to real transformation in South Africa.
While every business needs to identify and focus on its competitive edge, and transformation certainly helps companies remain competitive in the current bidding environment, this is certainly not our primary driver for achieving a Level 1 B-BBEE status. For us, transformation is an ethical business practice and, therefore, needs to exceed the Scorecard.
Our competitive edge has always been the professionalism and dedication of our staff and the quality services they deliver, and to understand JG Afrika’s commitment to change you need to first recognize that our 95-year history is steeped in African soil.
Founded in 1922 in Johannesburg, the firm forged rail linkages throughout South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana, and followed this with roads, dams and structures across southern Africa. This ongoing commitment to infrastructure development has continued through the decades and cemented our resolve to deliver the best professional service for this land and its people – irrespective of politics and prevailing economic conditions.
Rebranded from Jeffares & Green to JG Afrika in 2016, in a name change that speaks to our commitment to Afrika, we recognise, as do all reputable industry participants, that transformation is essential to address the imbalances of the past and propel us to a future the offers hope to all South Africans.
The tremendous change that the industry has undergone over the years is demonstrated by the many black- and women-owned consulting engineering firms in the industry, as well as black and women professional engineers that now hold high-level positions in consulting engineering companies. Within JG Afrika, important changes have been made, for example, our Board is now 60% black and 40% female.
Really though, when all the ideological posturing is put aside, transformation comes down to caring for the development of people, individually. That is why we commit our CSI funding to organisations that work with disadvantaged secondary school children who excel in maths and science to prepare them for tertiary education. As I said, transformation is about offering hope in tangible ways that can change lives.
It is why we offer bursaries to those university and Technikon students who want to follow an engineering career, and why our experienced engineers and environmental practitioners mentor our young professionals, building the confidence and skills they need to prosper.
In addition, we run in-house programmes to expose our young staff to aspects of consulting engineering that they would not encounter early in their career paths. We work with them through all phases of our projects, sharing knowledge and practical experience so that they have every opportunity to succeed.
But it must be said that the issue of transformation is not a ‘quick fix’ scenario. It is systematic process that needs management commitment to strategy and sustainability. Sadly we have seen the initial euphoria of our new democracy declining as the living conditions of the majority of people have failed to improve owing to lack of service delivery and the stuttering economy.
As a significant contributor to the infrastructure development and service delivery agenda, it is critical that engineering consulting industry continues to be viewed as a credible role player within the larger South African construction industry.
However, it is not only the engineering sector that has undergone important changes since 1994. Change is also evident in other components of the entire construction value chain.
The Construction Sector Charter Council can take credit for the prominent role it has played in driving transformation in the larger South African construction industry. Many important lessons have been learnt over the years, and these are reflected in the revised Construction Sector Code.
JG Afrika is now in its 96th year and fully committed to remain an active participant in meaningful transformation. As a wholly-owned South African company, we have remained true to our roots, while progressing and evolving as we keep pace with fluctuations in demand, the industry and our clients’ requirements – and a changing political and economic landscape.
As the African proverb goes: ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’