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Greater African expectations among quarrying and construction OEMs

First publishedin Aggregates Business International
March April 2018
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outdoor-panoramic-view of Bell Equipment stand at bauma CONEXPO AFRICA 2018.jpg
At the last bauma CONEXPO AFRICA in September 2015, the mood was sombre, optimism in short supply. Host nation South Africa, Africa’s biggest national construction, quarrying and mining sales market at 5,800-6,000 unit sales/year, was still under the highly controversial leadership of president Jacob Zuma, the vitally important commodities markets were nothing to write home about, and much of the promised new infrastructure spending east to west, from Addis Ababa to Abuja, and north to south, from Casablanca to Cape Town, was not being reflected in digger-ready projects.

Fast-forward two-and-a-half-years to last month’s latest staging of the exhibition, and the mood was more about how to maximise opportunities created by the expectation of far better times. South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is getting on with the job of sorting out the appalling financial mismanagement of the Rainbow Nation’s coffers, with his and his new government team’s efforts likely to lead to some fascinating showpiece trials of a number of high-profile individuals. An encouraging rise in commodity prices, coupled with the start of more and more major infrastructure projects across the continent, had also left many of the exhibitors and attendees during the 13-16 March industry showpiece event in pretty good spirits.

CDE, Bell Equipment, Weir Minerals and LiuGong were among leading names showcasing new machines and technology solutions for construction, quarrying and mining customers. The fact that there was plenty new at the exhibition is a good illustration in itself of growing confidence in the African construction equipment sector, which averages around 23,000-25,000 sales/year. You can read my first-hand account of the highlights of the four-day showcase in a special feature inside this issue.

Remaining in South Africa, we hear in this edition from Bell Equipment CEO designate Leon Goosen. In a wide-ranging interview with me, Goosen stresses how the Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal-globally headquartered ADT giant will remain true to its family-run roots under his leadership. A 45-year-old Namibian national, Goosen officially becomes CEO of Bell on 1 June 2018, with longstanding CEO Gary Bell, one of the sons of the company’s co-founders, taking up the role of non-executive chairman of the Bell company board.

The awful images and stories of human misery linked to the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen have followed hot on the heels of deadly clashes between civil rights campaigners and the authorities in Iran. Add in the ongoing bitter feud between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the latter currently suffering from Saudi Arabia-imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions, supported by Egypt, UAE and Bahrain, and you are not short of high-profile examples of how daily life across the Middle East remains a fragile experience.

Despite such political and social fragility, the Middle East remains a region investing in new infrastructure. In the face of lower oil prices forcing the country to adopt something resembling fiscal prudence, work is continuing to progress well on two of Saudi Arabia’s most prestigious projects – the multi-billion US dollar Riyadh Metro and King Abdullah Economic City. Add to this Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s impassioned call for greater economic diversification in Saudi Arabia, including a greater role for the private sector, and there is likely to be new eye-catching, lucrative project opportunities, if not in the short-term, certainly in the next five to 10 years.

As this edition’s Middle East Market Report highlights, providing the right construction and quarrying equipment in order for contractors to deliver new big money projects is exactly where growth-hungry global construction and quarrying equipment OEMs will be keen to come in.

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