Tel:+27 (0)11 386 9000

Toll Free:+27 (0) 800 236 368

12 February 2017

Gearing to grow with the industry and continent

Gearing to grow with the industry and continent
The past 100 years have seen an unparalleled rate of scientific discoveries and
technological advances. From the PC to TV, radio and the internet, all the way through to
cars, rocketry, nuclear power and antibiotics, mankind continues to push the boundaries of
what was previously thought possible, redefining our collective future. Here at home in
Africa, our industry and sector have undergone a similar transformation and evolution – with
developments in engineering and construction driving everything from high early strength
cement to concrete design codes. PPC Technical Consultant Steve Crosswell reflects on
some of the most notable of these changes, as well as PPC’s own growth as a leading brand
on the continent…
As the developing world urbanises, the global cement industry continues to experience
significant growth. With the majority of the world’s future 2.5 billion new urban inhabitants
projected to live in Africa and Asia in the next 30 years (World Urbanisation Prospects, 2014
revision), countries and populations in these continents are strongly influencing
developments in the quality and the efficiency of the cement production process. This is
something we are part of – and contributing to – as PPC.
2017 marks our 125th year of existence on the continent. From a company that started out in
South Africa in 1892 and established a number of plants across the country, our subsequent
investment in Africa has been an extensive one. Our expansion into the sub-Saharan region
began in earnest in Botswana in 1996 when our blending plant was commissioned. This was
followed by a move into Zimbabwe in 2001 with our acquisition of Portland Holdings. In the
16 years since, we have gone on to grow our footprint to include a 35% stake in Habesha
Cement in Ethiopia; 69% of a new cement plant in the DRC (currently undergoing final
testing) and a new mill in Harare, Zimbabwe commissioned in 2016. Prior to this, in August
2015, the Prime Minister of Rwanda opened that country’s only integrated cement plant,
CIMERWA, in which PPC has a 51% stake. Work on our US$24 million (R1,7 billion), 1
million tpa kiln at Slurry (SK9) in the North West in South Africa is on schedule, making us a
truly African brand.
This growth and expansion speaks of our group’s long-term vision for the future, as an
enabler on the continent. Something we are committed to making a reality.
Our most recent CSI initiative – the rollout of mobile science laboratories – at 12
disadvantaged schools across the country for example, has seen us reach over 10 500
learners, paving their path for a potential future in the industry. This pipeline will be ably
supported by our bursary scheme, which will see qualifying candidates able to learn at the
various schools of civil engineering at our leading local universities, emerging as engineers
conversant with structural design or equipped with relevant skills to take them further in our
From a heritage perspective, many projects we are proud to have contributed towards
additionally highlight how industry developments have ensured these become legacy
structures. The development of reinforced and pre-stressed concrete design codes which
gave engineers more confidence in designing and specifying concrete, have continued to
push the limits of design – making projects like the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg
(2005), the Soccer City stadium in Soweto (2009) and the Gouda Wind Farm Precast
Towers in the Western Cape (2015) possible. Other trends which have had significant
impact on buildings such as Sasol’s new head office in Sandton and the Mall of Africa in
Midrand are faster construction practices and the related demand for high early strength
cement, as well as the long-term swing from site-batched concrete to ready mixed concrete.
The introduction and development of concrete admixtures (which greatly expanded the fields
of application for concrete as a construction material), a trend towards pumping concrete
and the change in focus from concrete strength to concrete durability continue to influence
not only the design of our own plants on the continent, but the solutions we bring to a region
from the outset.
As we evolve into a material solutions provider, we will continue to focus on product
innovation, product consistency and of course quality: our core brand promise from
inception. Investment in research and partnerships will remain a critical part of this approach,
and we will carry on working extensively with the industry bodies in our space.
As for the next 125 years, we’re excited to see where they will take all of us: how they will
challenge PPC to continue to develop solution-driven products; how we will need to refine
and rethink our offering; and, above all, how we in turn can drive growth and development on
the continent through our people, products and committed contribution.