Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Sihle Zikalala said the country needs an additional R1.6 trillion in public sector infrastructure investments by 2030 to stimulate economic growth.
Zikalala revealed this in response to a Parliamentary question from IFP MP Sanele Zondo, Business Day reported.
The minister lamented poor project preparation and insufficient planning for the country’s chronic underinvestment in infrastructure projects.
The government’s Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) has a large pipeline of projects. However, “a significant number of these projects are not sufficiently prepared and packaged such that funding and financing decisions can be made”, Zikalala said.
“Moreover, the majority of these projects are submitted by less-resourced municipalities.”
So far, the government has committed R600 million in funding to ISA from 2023 to 2025 for project preparation.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa previously headed up ISA before his appointment to lead the country’s efforts to end load-shedding.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously said that a significant obstacle to infrastructure investment was the lack of skills and project management capacity.
Zikalala clarified this in his response to Zondo’s question, saying there is a “lack of capability and capacity in the public sector”.
The country’s fixed investment to GDP ratio has declined dramatically over the past 15 years, from 22% of GDP in 2018 to just 14% now.
“Analysis of this widening investment gap to the National Development Plan’s targeted growth levels shows that an additional R1.6 trillion in public sector infrastructure investment is required by 2030, over and above the current forecast,” Zikalala said.
South Africa’s infrastructure at risk of failure
Zikalala’s estimate of the country needing R1.6 trillion in infrastructure investment comes on the back of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) saying that local infrastructure is well below global standards.
SAICE annually assesses South Africa’s infrastructure, ranking it in different categories and subcategories.
SAICE member Professor Marianne Vanderschuren told 702 that the organisation’s assessment shows that most sectors and subsectors are “at risk of failure”.
“That gives you an indication that maintenance in our sector is just not happening,” she said.
Vandershuren attributed South Africa’s infrastructure failings to a lack of maintenance.
“Unfortunately, in South Africa, there has been an unconscious – or conscious in some cases – decision not to maintain,” she said.
“And unfortunately, if you don’t maintain your infrastructure, you will not get as many years out of it as if you were doing regular maintenance.”
She said this has caused many sectors and subsectors in South Africa to decline.
Vandershuren said many engineers in the country are willing to do the work necessary to maintain and uplift South Africa’s infrastructure.
However, she said SAICE has been witnessing a decline in its membership over the past few years as skilled engineers, technologists and technicians are retiring, leaving the country, or joining other fields.
“The main trend that we can provide for young engineers and young technicians and technologists is less and less, and that’s problematic.
“We also see that the number of engineers, technicians and technologists in municipalities has dwindled in South Africa.”
“If you don’t have the skill set, then it’s really difficult to actually make sure that appropriate maintenance and monitoring [can happen continuously].”