With air travel long surpassing road, sea and railway as the preferred mode of transport, it makes sense that Africa’s first airport city or aerotropolis be located in Ekurhuleni, which is home to OR Tambo International, the continent’s largest airport.
University of North Carolina professor, Johan Kasarda, coined the term aerotropolis to refer to cities built around an airport. In the current era of globalisation, he sees the aerotropolis as the logical next step for cities and people to link to each other and transform the way they conduct business.
GIBB Director of Urban and Rural Planning, Nico Kriek, who recently travelled to Denver (another airport city) in the United States to attend the Airport Cities World Conference 2012, says it makes sense to develop airports as international hubs as they provide the opportunity to make contact with the rest of the world on a daily basis and en masse.
“An aerotropolis is all about connectivity and accessibility. Business people can fly in from around the world and conduct business without leaving the building. Everything they need is at their fingertips – accommodation, technology, conference facilities, shopping destinations and entertainment,” says Kriek.
An example of a successful aerotropolis is Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and, says Kriek, Frankfurt is following suit. “Frankfurt International Airport has established what is regarded as the largest office building in the world. This was as a result of financial giant, KPMG, wanting to move its European head offices close to an airport. Today, the move has become part of the city’s greater vision to maintain its competitive edge as a world financial hub and capture global business. The building is more like a mini-town under one roof and, conveniently, has a railway station located under it,” he says.
There is the potential for Rhodesfield Station at OR Tambo to evolve into an aerotropolis when the Gautrain project was being developed. “While the site does present some challenges such as accessibility, they are not insurmountable,” says Kriek.
With direct flights to many of the world’s major cities, Kriek says that OR Tambo is becoming the logical gateway for the entire African continent. “Today Dubai claims this status, but it is not located in Africa. Nevertheless, it will always represent competition for us,” he says.
The airport is the engine of any aerotropolis and must be a technologically advanced and smooth running operation. Kriek says an aerotropolis is built out from the airport like the rings of an onion. “Supporting services need to address the needs of international business and tourist communities. Everything needs to be easily accessible and staff members (including customs officials) need to be welcoming and offer top-class service,” he says.
He sees the possibility of Sandton forming part of the aerotropolis, which would require that Sandton, Ekurhuleni and ACSA work closely together to ensure a competitive edge. “The most important thing about an aerotropolis is the ability to capture the time advantage and Sandton is only 12 minutes away from the airport via the Gautrain,” he says.
In addition to attending the conference in Denver, Kriek visited Memphis, to see another aerotropolis in the making. “Memphis is centrally located in the United States and home to FedEx Express, which receives and distributes up to 1.5-million parcels every night over a three-hour window period that commences at midnight – to avoid disruption of day-time passenger flights. Memphis sees the development of an aerotropolis as a way of boosting a declining economy,” he says.
The trip to Denver and Memphis formed part of a fact-finding mission for GIBB and other private sector parties, who see themselves playing a significant role in the development of airport cities. “GIBB has extensive experience developing Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State in southern Nigeria, which is really an aerotropolis although it was never named as such.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer. Developing OR Tambo into an aerotropolis will ensure South Africa remains abreast of global business and transport trends. In addition, it will represent an important mechanism for opening Africa up to the rest of the world,” says Kriek.
The World Bank’s Africa Energy Unit (AFTEG) estimates that 25 of Africa’s 54 nations face an energy crisis, but GIBB General Manager of Power and Energy, Paul Fitzsimons, wonders whether the continent is facing an insurmountable energy crisis or whether its current predicament is merely confirmation that Africa is poised for massive economic development and growth.
“A major factor of productivity and economic growth since the Industrial Revolution was the substitution of energy from human and animal labour, to water and wind power and then to electric power and internal combustion. Since then, power expansion has been driven by continuous improvement in energy conversion efficiencies.
“The truth is the continent’s planned increase in power consumption is perhaps evidence that it is on the verge of a significant economic upswing pattern and despite conventional energy savings, consumption will change in line with new technology and demand sources,” says Fitzsimons.
He cites data processing as an example. “In the US it is estimated that data processing centres and server farms represents almost half of the total electricity consumed in South Africa,” he says.
Another example is electric vehicles. “Demand for these vehicles would mean having to establish the necessary infrastructure to service them and we would have to consider the associated changes in electrical power demand,” says Fitzsimons.
Of course, the United Nations’ Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, was right when he stated in his personal foreword to the “Sustainable Energy for All Framework for Action” that access to energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth.
This sentiment was recently reinforced by Deputy Minister for the Department of Energy, Ms Barbara Thompson, who in her address to the Energy Indaba on 15 March 2012 said “development is not possible without energy and sustainable development is not possible without sustainable energy”.
She pointed out that; “energy is critical in improving the well-being of the poor who need it for cooking and lighting, heating water, transportation and the production of goods and services. Energy access affects the quality of life by contributing to better public services, such as health care and education, and improving the possibilities for income generation and employment.”
In her address on 6 March, the Minister of Energy, Ms Dipuo Peters, announced that 2012 would be the “Year of Access to Energy” and March 2012 “Energy Month”, in line with the United Nations’ “Sustainable Energy for All Framework for Action”.
So, with the focus firmly on energy this year, how do we – as a country – ensure a bright outcome?
Fitzsimons says there are two major threads to the country’s energy developmental plans. “Social access is the one, for example household electrification in deep rural areas and industrial development the other. There needs to be a balance of these – we need economic growth to help fund social development and we need social development with the resultant improved health and education etc. to provide the knowledge workers for tomorrow’s industries.
“In order not to constrain growth, we must do two things in unison. Firstly, we need to diversify and increase supply as per the Integrated Resource Plan 2010. In addition, we need to look at innovative options such as community based and off -grid supply. A good example of this is in the establishment of Namibia’s first solar town at Tsumkwe, which relies extensively on photovoltaic electricity.
“Secondly, we need to proactively manage the demand side, which means reducing consumption and being energy efficient. As prices increase, economics will dictate that demand side initiatives become more of a bottom line business imperative than an altruistic issue,” says Fitzsimons.
A bright outcome is possible if everyone’s efforts – government, business and ordinary South Africans – are focused on creating a future underwritten by sustainable energy. And, says Fitzsimons, GIBB is positioned to play a role in this by supporting both the public and private sectors with their existing energy initiatives and by helping to develop creative alternative solutions such as those cited above.
The Thusano Learnership Programme is soaring to new heights in the development of core skills such as mathematics and science.
Since its inception in 2005, the programme operates from the Sithembele Matiso High School in New Crossroads. Thusano is a Tswana word that means ‘empowering each other’ and was founded by Mthetheli Peter, who approached GIBB to assist in funding the programme, highlighting engineering as a career, and explaining the importance of mathematics and science.
GIBB has committed to providing learnerships and apprenticeships and further, employing students if they meet the criteria.
“The future development of talented young South Africans is vital to GIBB. South Africa still has a long way to go in developing skills on a national basis as there are far too few professional engineers, technicians and scientists. We are committed to supporting programmes that assist the disadvantaged students of our society,” stresses Linda Nama, Chairperson of GIBB’s Corporate Social Investment committee.
The programme is designed to introduce talented disadvantaged learners to the world of engineering and prepare them for a career in this exciting industry.
Two schools that form part of the Thusano Learnership Programme, Vuluhlanga Senior Secondary School and Amabele Senior Secondary School have seen tremendous growth in their mathematics and science marks since joining the programme.
Vuluhlanga Senior Secondary School placed third in the Butterworth district ratings, having upped their marks from 54% in 2010 to a whopping 82% in 2011. Of the 39 learners who wrote their Grade 12 examination, 32 passed. A record improvement was achieved by Amabele Senior Secondary School with their overall results in 2011 at 73.9% compared to 48% received in 2010.
According to Nama, due to below-par results achieved in mathematics and science at school level, the engineering industry is faced with a massive skills shortage. The Thusano Learnership Programme selects schools where the growing need for quality tuition in english, mathematics and science is indentified.
“Learners undergo extra classes, tuition and guidance with the aim of grooming them for tertiary education. We are elated by the vast improvement seen by Vuluhlanga Senior Secondary School and Amabele Senior Secondary School and we would like to congratulate them for their dedication and persistence,” concludes Nama
We are proud to welcome Urishanie Govender, Paul Fitzsimons and Amanda Nair as new General Managers (GMs) to GIBB. These individuals are highly regarded industry leaders who will add to the depth of strong leadership talent at GIBB. As GMs, they are a part of the GIBB senior management team, responsible for the overall management of the company and the sectors that they will lead.
Urishanie Govender – GM: Environmental Services Sector
With a Doctorate and Masters Degree in Business Leadership and a Masters Degree in Technology – Chemistry, Govender joins GIBB as the GM of the Environmental Services Sector. With over 16 years of experience, her most recent role in the industry involved the successful development and implementation of the Environmental and Sustainable strategy for the PPC Group.
Environmental management is enshrined in our Constitution and organisations are beginning to recognise the business case for customised environmental management systems. “COP 17 was a catalyst for corporate awareness of the impact environmental issues can have on a business. We are seeing CEOs of blue-chips committing and responding to sustainability and climate change,” says Govender. Businesses are increasingly structuring their organisations to incorporate environmental management, which is becoming a fixture in business risk management. Being a part of a multidisciplinary engineering company, Govender and her team will provide expert oversight over GIBB projects as well as grow the environmental management business.
Paul Fitzsimons – GM: Power and Energy Sector
Fitzsimons has over 25 years of international experience in operations, project management, and commercial and general management at senior, executive and board level in the energy industry. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Applied Physics, a Diploma in Operations and Industrial Management an MBA and is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute of the UK.
Fitzsimons says the power and energy industry is likely to change beyond recognition in the next few years; “We are likely to see significant changes in both demand side patterns together with significant adjustments as the supply side responds in terms of both technical solutions and market structures over the next few years” says Fitzsimons; “This industry is a really exciting place to be and I’m pleased to be joining an organisation that is proactively exploring how best to serve these new market realities.”
Amanda Nair - GM: Mobility Sector
Nair brings a wealth of experience to GIBB from her previous position as the CEO of Blue IQ Holding (Blue IQ is the development arm of the Gauteng province responsible for implementation of mega strategic economic infrastructure projects such as Constitutional Hill and the Innovation Hub). She was also the Executive Director of the City of Johannesburg Development Planning Agency. Nair believes that there is a strong need to provide efficient, effective and safe movement systems for people, goods and services that meet global sustainability criteria. This will be a key factor of success as a country and a continent.
Nair says that President Zuma’s pronouncement in his State of the Nation address this year and the PICC will serve as a platform for GIBB to give effect to the movement agenda. “Aligned with our work at a project level, we will also seek to influence the need to transform our society and industry as we contribute to building a relevant and high capacity skills base, ensure appropriate and suitable opportunities for previously disadvantaged people and advance our progress as a South African company in the industry,” says Nair.