From its humble beginnings in South Africa on 1 April 1921, Knight Piésold has established and grown its local operations within southern Africa, through its offices in Namibia, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Madagascar, Swaziland, Mauritius and South Africa.
Speaking at the company’s centenary celebrations held in Sandton this week, Vishal Haripersad, regional manager for Knight Pièsold in southern Africa, explained that operations across Africa were staffed by locals in the country, and supported by the collective skills, knowledge, and expertise of both its southern African and global teams.
“This has happened without Knight Pièsold losing its unique culture, identity, and heritage; and without needing to be acquired by a global company to grow and expand. In fact, through organic growth and expansion, Knight Piésold has grown into a truly international organisation, with offices in Australia, North and South America, the United Kingdom and throughout the African continent.”
He added that the market within which the company operates today has evolved over the years, both with the changing needs of the economy and political changes.
“Our business has accordingly evolved and transformed into the entity it is today. Transformation at Knight Piésold is about institutionalising the competencies and capabilities of our organisation and people; and expanding the breadth and efficiency of our business to create value for all our stakeholders. Transformation at Knight Piésold is to reinvent ourselves and to take on the new challenges that lie ahead. And to harness the tremendous opportunities on our continuous path of value creation.”
He added that while the company’s strength lies in its ability to call on an enviable track record of delivering large infrastructure and mining projects throughout Africa, it believes that through the divisionalisation of its business it is better geared to partner with clients to a more focussed and efficient service.
This is evidenced through its recent and current involvement on several mega-projects throughout Africa, which includes Knight Piésold being part of the consortium involved in the design and supervision of the construction of both the Katse and Mohale dams, forming a key part of phase 1 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project located Lesotho, and is currently part of the team working on key elements of Phase 2 of this project.
Within South Africa, Knight Piésold was the lead consultant in the design and construction supervision on the multibillion Western and Northern Aqueduct projects. These are large diameter pipelines necessary to bring potable water to the rapidly developing areas of the eThekwini Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.
The company was also the lead consultant in the design and construction supervision of the Neckertal Dam project, located in Keetmanshoop in Namibia, which is the largest infrastructure project undertaken in the county.
Through its execution of these and several other projects, as well as others in the pipeline, Knight Piésold has proven its ability to undertake both large mega infrastructure projects, as well its ability to provide the mining industry a complete infrastructure offering and deliver on time, on budget and on brief.
Being a responsible corporate citizen
Haripersad stressed the importance of partnerships as an important feature of future growth.
“These partnerships are formed on the strong foundations of trust, of shared vision and strategic intent. As our democracy has matured and evolved, so has Knight Piésold over the recent past. We realised years ago that the firm needed to evolve from being a corporate dedicated to maintaining its own health, and that of its employees, to one that was dedicated to being a responsible corporate citizen in the countries within which we operate.
“We realised that rather than lament the slow rate of infrastructure development, the lack of significant investment in education and educational facilities; the poor state of mathematics and science teaching and results in high schools; and the pervasive influence of corruption through the tendering process – we needed to change our paradigm to define the path ahead for ourselves as a company in the African context.”
To this end, Knight Piésold has realigned its strategic objectives as an organisation and has repositioned itself as a key driver in the achievement of the objectives of national and local government. This is ensuring that it plays a key role in facilitating the expansion of national production and income as a prerequisite for job creation, improved living standards, and economic development.
Another key objective for the consulting engineering firm is to play its role in ensuring that the local consulting engineering industry transforms adequately and offers significant opportunities to local and emerging consultants and businesses but not at the expense of quality.
“We are committed that the development of these emerging local consulting practices and engineers is done in an ethical manner that is consistent and well planned to ensure that the resultant engineers and businesses are competent, sustainable and capable of being viable enterprises in their own rights. Through our enterprise development programmes, and in-house mentorship and training programmess, we have taken numerous consultants through this process and developed competent businesses. We further reinforce this through our strong emphasis on the hiring of local competent staff wherever we operate.”
Evolving with the times
Meanwhile, Haripersad said that despite the company’s incredible success of the past 100 years, to remain successful and to continue to thrive for the next century, it is important to adapt and transform in line with the evolving landscape into the future.
“Being born onto the African continent, it is poignant that as we chart the next 100 years, we look to our ancestral home for growth opportunities. We believe strongly in the potential and opportunities that lie within the African continent. Over the next decade, development in Africa for infrastructure, energy and mining projects will be driven by the strong population growth projected across the continent by 2030.”
“As we look to the future and determine how we position ourselves as a business to play a significant role in facilitating and developing this growth, we have come to realise that for our business to be as successful as possible within the environments in which we operate, we need to adapt and grow.
“With our strong belief in the capacity and capability of African excellence, we are focussed on ensuring that we continue to enhance the capacity of our business within southern Africa, through the continued training and development of local talent. We will also continue to look to expand our operations as developmental needs arise, such that we can continue to play a role in the development of local talent,” Haripersad concluded.