On a continent with so many weak economies, the construction industry could be expected to be one of Africa's weakest sectors. But it is not. Growth rates in the sector of 6-10% are not uncommon and look set to be sustained over the coming decade.
Alongside the construction of new parastatal buildings and facilities for newly privatised companies, the pace of church and mosque construction in Africa continues unimpeded. Even many poor villages around the continent display recently built places of worship.
By far the biggest construction market in Africa (as in so many other sectors) is South Africa, where the industry is worth an estimated R50bn ($6.68bn) a year. But even here, the sector is facing a particular problem in terms of integrating new Black Empowerment Enterprises (BEEs) into the existing structure of established construction companies.
The organisation that represents BEEs, the National African Federated Building Industry (NAFBI), has complained that the established major players in the sector are exploiting the smaller BEE firms by cutting margins.
Aubrey Tshalata, the general secretary of NAFBI, claimed at the end of January that BEE contractors were being relegated to the periphery and appealed for an empowerment charter for the sector to protect smaller companies.
But a spokesperson for the Building Industries Federation of South Africa (BIFSA), whose members include construction giants such as Aveng, Concor, …