BEATING THE ODDS - The AGORA viewpoint of 2020's first half
By: Agora Management
Posted on: August 2020
As the sun rose on the 1st day of January 2020, mixed feelings accompanied the expectations of what the new year would keep in store. The financial sector and construction industry ended 2019 with economic challenges and the expected budget speech and the glooming threat of a possible status reduction of South Africa’s investment grade by the international agencies.
More positively, various exciting trends were expected to further influence the construction industry in 2020. However, not new to the industry, the impact of these trends would have become evident during this year. These include, amongst others: Increased technological integration (such as Drones, 3D Printing, Mobile and Cloud Applications, BIM Technology); the increase in Off-site, Prefabrication and Modular Construction projects; Increased safety equipment; and Increased regulatory burdens (LP Building Solutions).
Businesses put contingency plans in place to address the concerns and take full advantage of all the opportunities and changes, however, it was close to impossible to be prepared for what came next.
Firstly, a mere month after the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni delivered the 2020 Budget Speech, announcing the forecasted growth rate and economical ‘jumpstarts’ to be implemented over the coming 18 months, South Africa was downgraded to full junk status by Moody’s Investors service due to our weak economy and unreliable power sector (Wallace, 2020).
A second economical challenge that hit the country, and world in full force, was the Coronavirus. As the virus originated, the world became tense, not entirely sure what we are dealing with. Then, on the 5th of March, the NICD reported South Africa’s first positive COVID-19 case. As government jumped into action, monitoring the infection rates, and looking at projected future infections, the difficult call was made to put the country into hard lockdown as of the 27th of March 2020.
Although COVID-19 impacted the macro-economy on international level, we, as citizens of South Africa witnessed how political issues were placed in the background and the safety of our people became the main priority. The country acted as one community by standing together on national level and helping each other, connecting with each other, and praying together.
LOOKING BACK AT WHAT OCCURRED DURING THE FIRST HALF OF 2020
As project sites were deserted, financial strain devasted many enterprises, AGORA’s main aim was to build and solidify the relationships with our clients and project teams. In addition to this aim, focus on strengthening our foundation with compassion and commitment with continued service delivery through whatever means possible and supporting each other through this pandemic. The work-from-home policy implemented served as dual function by allowing the company to meet deliverables and deadlines whilst keeping our employees safe. Through following a leadership rather than managerial approach during this lockdown period, AGORA’s resources were empowered and given the opportunity to learn and grow individually and collectively.
By following a proactive and flexible approach, AGORA Quantity Surveyors was blessed to show remarkable growth during the first six months of the year.
Making footprints in the construction industry across Africa and Europe, AGORA adapted our approach towards projects and resources alike, to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis.
AGORA retained our Level 2 B-BBEE status with 51% Black woman ownership. This expanded AGORA Africa’s horizon and empowered the company to participate in initiatives to change lives, and mold innovative concepts and creative design into flawless execution. With the addition of several new team members, of which 66% are women, we could provide clients with more efficient, dedicated resources, and transcendent quality service.
With the re-opening of the economy during level 3 of the lockdown, construction resumed taking off from where it left off, and a few new projects came to life.
AGORA believes in equality and base our actions on integrity and ethics. Our main aim is to change people’s lives and to make a positive impact at the end of our day. This forms the pivot of our core existence: Give more, exceed expectations, have a proactive approach, be creative, and be solution driven. This contributes to our competitive edge.
By thinking outside the box, being innovative and overcoming limitations, our professional service delivery and footprint expanded. Further to our Construction Cost Consulting and Quantity Surveying Services, AGORA also provides Project Management services. Working with our local European counterparts the AGORA Outpost footprint is being established in our two regions and offices.
We are fully adjusted to the ‘new normal’ after COVID-19 regulations were implemented at our office and strict safety measures were put in place with regards to meetings and project sites.
In the words of Richard Branson, we also concur that “the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised”.
At AGORA we also believe in the development and empowerment of our team. By ensuring continual skills development and mentorship to our people, we empower them to be able to utilize their skills and knowledge anywhere, and by investing in our people, we build a strong, loyal relationship.
FUTURE EXPECTATIONS FOR 2020
Looking forward to the remainder of the year, the expectations do appear more positive as we look forward to the further implementation of the National Development plan, with emphasis on the creation of new infrastructure and the targeting of sectors with high growth potential. (Research and Markets, 2020).
As the collective built environment industries, including the developers and professionals, contractors, and respective material suppliers, serves both the public and private sectors, the government and the Construction Covid-19 Rapid Response Task Team zoned in on the critical importance of the infrastructure projects. Another focus is the need to identify and implement practical interventions by government to support and boost the ailing construction sector (Construction Covid-19 Rapid Response Task Team, 2020).
From an AGORA perspective, we foresee that, with the leadership of our president and his focus on re-igniting the economy, South Africa and the construction industry will grow. As government implements further measures to improve the economic situation, we aim to build and expand relationships with clients, investors and developers who see opportunities to invest during times of change. Subsequently we will also facilitate the development of Public-Private Partnership relationships through our current connections.
Through living our values of competency, accountability, transparency, trustworthiness, and reliability, AGORA is adjusting to the environment and finding innovative ways to have a positive impact on the micro-economy whilst addressing the challenges created by die pandemic and economic affairs. By remaining positive and proactive, many opportunities are unlocked and waiting to be ceased.
We are well prepared with a solid team, like-minded, qualified, and driven people who aim to work with our clients to realize visions into reality and compassionately build a better future.