AECOM is looking to double its revenue from African projects as it takes advantage of its unique position and service offering in the fully integrated professional and technical engineering space on the continent.
The company has already made a unique impression on the South African construction landscape, having provided cost management and consultancy services for the iconic Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town, technically the most challenging of the stadia designed and built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
AECOM originally entered the South African market in 2010 with the acquisition of Davis Langdon, following which it absorbed multi-disciplinary firm BKS in 2012. While these two legacy companies form the basis of AECOM South Africa, it is the intention of newly-appointed Chief Executive – Africa Carlos Poñe to ensure that AECOM becomes as well known, and as entrenched, as it is in the rest of the world.
One of Poñe’s aims is to change the perception of AECOM in the local market, where he admits it has been something of a “hidden secret” to date. “We need to get away from this idea that we are a construction consultant or company,” he stresses.
“We are actually a company that delivers engineering solutions for our customers, which equates to design and construction services. In Africa in particular, we will also look to finance and even operate projects,” Poñe comments.
This means that AECOM’s project mandates often extend well beyond construction, encompassing diverse roles such as owner’s engineer and project manager, for a range of infrastructure from harbours to power plants.
Looking at its African footprint alone, AECOM has 1 900 employees on the continent and maintains a project presence in over 20 key countries. These include Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda.
“In terms of our overall capabilities, we are able to offer a lot more than a traditional consultancy. Globally, we have expertise on hydro from Canada, coal and gas power plants from the US, and transmission and distribution experience from the Americas and Africa. We are probably the consultant with the most expertise across the full water portfolio, from water governance to full EPC projects.
“My vision for AECOM in Africa is that I foresee revenue on the continent being at least as good as in South Africa. Thus we could be doubling our revenue in a very short space of time,” Poñe reveals. A big factor in this equation is working in tandem with private-sector investors, especially in the oil and gas, mining and power space. We can deliver on AECOM’s vision of design, build, finance and operate.
“There is an incredible amount of enabling infrastructure that goes along with large-scale private-sector projects. If you look at a Greenfield mine, for example, there often is no power, roads, housing or water and sewerage. Everything has to be built from scratch, and this represents huge opportunities for potential investors,” Poñe explains.
Poñe brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his new role at AECOM, which he took up in October 2015. This ranges from being MD for a major mechanical construction company in Mozambique in 1982, to being production manager for a major South African pump manufacturer in 1985.
From 1993, he held various positions at ABB Sub-Saharan Africa, including VP and CEO. He also spent three years in the United Arab Emirates as CEO of ABB UAE, (overseeing part of the Middle East), finally becoming an Executive Director at AECOM UAE.
While Poñe is focused firmly on Africa, he stresses that AECOM is not neglecting South Africa, where it is in the process of opening new offices in both Durban and Cape Town to service the local market. “South Africa may not be the biggest economy in Africa anymore, but it is still the most sophisticated,” he reiterates.
“In terms of investment, infrastructure, banking and insurance, it is number one in all of these areas. Secondly, it is much easier to source engineering skills here for the rest of Africa. Therefore our aim is to deploy the global competitiveness of AECOM to assist our customers in terms of all of our capabilities. With the devaluation of the rand, it has also meant that we have become even more cost-competitive,” Poñe concludes.