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Inside Africa: Difference between South African and Nigerian Construction & Built Environment Industries


Nigerian construction industry is in an excellent position at the moment. The forecast for the sector is continued growth for at least the next five years, and in 2020 it is predicted to become the fastest-growing building industry in the world.

Recently construction expert Ivan Bekker – a UCT graduate (1972) spoke with on the future’s biggest construction markets in the world and how they differ to that of South Africa. Here is the excerpt.

What are the differences between the South African and Nigerian Construction and Built Environment industries?

• Quality assurance and Quality Control are major factors which are NOT addressed adequately in Nigeria and in my opinion will manifest as disasters in the decades to come and until this is properly addressed.
• Many smaller companies do not follow adequate QA/QC protocols, whereas the larger companies are acutely aware, as this can affect their continued profitability and presence in the industry.
• Many larger projects are designed by the larger international consultants, many of whom are active in Nigeria and West Africa in general, however some projects are designed inadequately and need to be checked and detailed before construction can be safely carried out.

What can the South African industry learn from the Nigerians?

Whilst the Nigerian industry is fairly well-developed and there are first world top class contractors here, the majority of work is carried out below par, due to lack of control in terms of QA/QC. In terms of expertise, materials and machines, one can obtain anything you need. In spite of all of this, there is not much that Nigeria can teach South Africa. Design and Construction in swamps is something that South Africans know little about, but which Nigerians know a lot about.

What can the Nigerians learn from South Africans?

In my opinion, the only thing Nigeria lacks is the wealth of experience that has been collected and learned by companies and professionals in South Africa over many decades of first class infrastructure development. So the Nigerian industry can learn from individuals coming from South Africa  and I have found that most local individuals are keen to learn from this experience and apply, and if necessary adapt for local conditions and implement it locally. One has to bear in mind that there is a wealth of knowledge in Nigeria from expats but more importantly from Nigerians who have lived, studied and worked in Europe and the USA and who have returned to grow their own country.

What are the challenges current facing Nigerian Construction and Built Environment industries?

I would say that the major problem is the economy and therefore cash flow. I venture to say that after considering all the aspects challenging contractors across the board, many Nigerian clients are on the whole not regular paying clients, which pose major problems to cash flow and therefore profitability of projects. One therefore has to be ruthless in employment, from senior to junior staff, which makes the industry very “feast and famine”.

Who are the major players in Nigeria in the Construction and Built Environment industries?

• Julius Berger – (originally part of the Beger Bilfinger group)
• CCECC (Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company)
• Hitech
• Cappa & Dalberto
• ARAB Contractors
• PW Construction
• Palmyra Construction
• And a host of others
• Aurecon
• Dar El Handasa (DAR)
• Arup
• Gibb
• And other smaller local companies

What is the availability of skilled Construction and Built Environment professionals in Nigeria?

There are many local semi-skilled and skilled staff, at the junior levels but at the senior levels there is a distinct lack of experienced professional staff. My observation is that local staff have not been exposed to high quality and sophisticated systems much, as a result of these projects not being in the market over the last few decades due to Political instability and economic immaturity. The climate has changed in Nigeria over the last decade or more and given the correct and focussed assistance, local professionals adapt very well and many are eager to learn. Due to the changes in government and industry, many well educated and well experienced Nigerian professionals are returning home from Europe and beyond to take advantage of the changing construction sector.

What are the opportunities for South African Construction and Built Environment?

Consultants can search but MUST have a local office, it’s not an easy environment to start up in. Contractors would struggle in this environment, due to a lack of knowledge of how the system works. It’s my opinion that both would do better to do JV’s with locals, where one gets the work and the other brings the specialist expertise.
Is it easy to find employment as a Construction and Built Environment professionals in Nigeria if you a foreigner?

In the past 3 to 4 years it has been relatively easy, but in the last year many expatriates have been retrenched in ALL industries due to a poor economic climate. Nigeria is a large oil producer and the economy is founded on Oil, so the fact that the oil price has dropped by massively, this has caused major challenges for Nigeria and hence the construction related sector. I believe that this negative sentiment would hopefully not last for another year, but maybe longer, but certainly until the current new government is able to bring the economy back on track and the Oil price recovers.

Any other information with regards to the Nigerian industry?

• English is the lingua franca, so it is easy to operate here for South Africans who arefluent in English.
• The Nigerian people are generally well educated and very polite.
• You can get anything and everything you need and are used to, across the board, from the largest machine to the smallest item.

Furthermore, there is a lot of infrastructure development to be done here and I therefore believe that Nigeria is a growing economy. I believe that Nigeria will outstrip SA over the next decade by leaps and bounds, as the Nigerian government is focused on growing the economy. I believe that once the new government has come to grips with rearranging previous mistakes, there will be a lot of Infrastructure development and hence a host of opportunities for well experienced South Africans.



  1. Yeah, my company deals with scaffolding since 1996, and if you want to know know, please just email me [email protected], or you can tell me your email address, then I will send you our catalogue for your reference.

    NOTE: above photo is provided from one of my Nigeria construction customers.

  2. What you see is yes, and I have seen many photos of bamboo scaffolding used in Nigeria, and also some old photos in China, actually if the height of building is not so high, like under 10meters, some may choose bamboo or wood as posts to erect scaffolding working platform, it is workable, but not safe.

    Bamboo scaffolding photos as below

  3. Africa is a potential market for construction, and Nigeria is one of them, while Nigeria now is facing many problems with importing business, and Nigerian domestic market cannot supply building materials well, and Nigeria government is applying market exchange rate, that would kill international business in Nigeria. And also according to Africa market reflects, many contractors and customers for building materials are not well awared of the quality and safety is critical to construction, one of them is Nigeria now is still use bamboo scaffolding.


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