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Bridges – ‘not barriers’ – in sub-Saharan Africa

31.03.2022 | News
Klaas Pouwels, Managing Director for South African-based Form-Scaff tells us more about the sub-Saharan construction market and what has changed since partnering with Doka in 2019.

Impressions

Since signing an exclusive distribution agreement with Doka in August 2019, Form-Scaff has weathered the global Covid-19 pandemic, but managed to exceed the set revenue targets established between Doka and Form-Scaff before the global downturn.

This was despite crippling lockdowns that completely shut down construction sites in South Africa in March and April of 2020 and later eased to the extent that only limited activity was allowed and people’s movements were restricted. In short – the previously buoyant South African construction market was placed into sudden hibernation.

“The consequences were severe, and our earning ability was battered due to our strong reliance on rental business in South Africa. However, it also led us to re-engineer the business for more resilience in future and to adopt new strategies to modernize our offerings to compete on a global stage. Fortunately, as a reliable brand with a long-term presence in the country, Form-Scaff’s distribution agreement with Doka has worked well and provided several upsides, particularly in terms of adding brand value. The alliance has already given us the kind of international presence needed to bid on large scale multi-national projects and as a result we are already contesting a number of these across the African continent.

“It has become clear that the Doka Frami and Dokaflex systems are extremely popular solutions throughout the sub-Saharan market thanks to their practicality, cost-effective attributes, and crane-free ability. In terms of the rental market the Frami system are becoming increasingly popular and there is a growing demand in South Africa especially as the post lockdown economy strengthens. We are also undertaking studies into the feasibility of the Framini system, which will provide a more cost-effective system than Frami. While our existing Econo-Form systems are still very popular, we are investigating whether the Doka option should replace or rather bolster this product line in future.”

“Our short – and medium-term pipeline in South Africa is looking very healthy – but heavily reliant on the government's ability to secure the necessary funding – and is made up of 75% of civil construction work which consists of bridges, tunnels, reservoirs, waterworks, and sewage plants. To meet this requirement, Form-Scaff will have to invest in additional Vertical Formwork systems, heavy duty shoring systems and climbing systems.

Covid had less of an effect on the rest of our operations across the African continent and we managed to secure several large-scale orders for Doka equipment during the first two partnership years in countries like Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Senegal and Cameroon.

The single biggest future opportunity in Africa is the newly planned LNG project in the north of Mozambique. Form-Scaff is well poised to take advantage of this massive project with two branches – Pemba and Palma – in close proximity to the project. Attacks in the town of Palma in March of this year have, however, placed the whole project on hold for the time being.

Other opportunities in Africa include the Polihali Dam project in Lesotho, big infrastructure spend in Botswana and a buoyant construction market in East Africa in countries like Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.

In terms of returning to full strength as an industry – both in SA and the rest of Africa - we’ll have to wait until the overall market is confident enough to start investing in big infrastructure projects again, at which stage we’ll be ready to deliver.”

Pouwels concludes that it had always been the company’s intention to partner with a big international company and drive more aggressively into markets throughout Africa. The partnership with Doka allows just that and gives multinational construction companies the confidence to deal with Form-Scaff – who has a very strong footprint of more than 35 branches across Africa - on major projects anywhere across the continent.

From a very difficult ‘Covid impacted’ start we believe that the new alliance will be a successful one and grow to be a true powerhouse on the African continent.

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