modular buildings. The formation of WACO Africa as a joint venture between WACO International and Kagiso Ventures took place in 2001. Kagiso Strategic Investments controls 25.1% of WACO Africa.
Stephen Goodburn, Chairman of WACO Africa, notes that opportunities in Africa, although fraught with risk, are of great value – as proven by WACO Africa’s current forays into Africa. Last year, more than 30% of WACO Africa’s profits came from the African continent outside South Africa. WACO has successfully traded for a number of years in Zambia, Namibia, Mauritius and Madagascar. Historically, it followed its clients into African countries, but, as Goodburn puts it, “WACO has paid its school fees,” meaning that it is in a position to be bolder and enter selective markets on a ‘Greenfields’ basis.
In a previous issue of CEO, Goodburn commented that WACO International grew up in South Africa from 1952, with SGB-Cape being its oldest company. “We were once listed on the JSE and it would be great to see us listed again. There have been very few listings in South Africa over the last 10 years, which I think is a pity, because there are some great companies out there that are held privately. It would be good to see the local bourse grow, and, hopefully, we will be one of those companies listing at the right time,” Goodburn continues.
As for his growth plan for the company, it centres on three initiatives, namely finding business opportunities despite the global financial crisis, directing WACO’s focus to prospects that are not as cyclical as the construction industry, and focusing on industry and geographic hot spots. “We’re focusing on those African countries’ economies which have high GDP growth, where it’s easy to do business, where English is the business language, and where the banking and regulatory systems work. We already have a number of businesses in Africa, namely in Zambia, Madagascar, Namibia and Mauritius, so the continent is not new to us. It’s just that we’re being a bit more aggressive on the growth front in Africa,” he adds.
Michael Els, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WACO Africa, was appointed in 2010 and holds a bachelor’s degree in quantity surveying from the University of Cape Town. He says he is optimistic and excited about WACO Africa’s expansion. WACO Africa has almost reached capacity in South Africa; hence the move into the rest of Africa. This move, Els explains, allows WACO Africa to continue to service key construction customers that are all using Africa as a springboard for growth in the difficult economic conditions currently being experienced in South Africa. He believes that the Group as a whole has passion and is “not afraid of change”, attributes which have resulted in its continued success.
According to Els, the WACO Africa structure has been flattened to ensure that management is very ‘hands-on’. Despite recent troubled market conditions, WACO Africa has remained successful by cutting unnecessary costs and delivering quality products and service, while remaining competitive. Staff retention is excellent, although finding adequately trained and proficient staff does prove a challenge at times. WACO Africa is involved in the majority of the large projects currently under construction countrywide, ranging from the SASOL expansions, New Power Stations, numerous buildings in Sandton and Rivonia to projects such as the Boardwalk Casino in Port Elizabeth.
Form-Scaff beyond South Africa’s Borders
Form-Scaff, South Africa’s formwork and scaffolding powerhouse for the past 50 years has a new focus which entails expanding the company beyond the borders of South Africa. Form-Scaff South Africa designs, manufactures, hires and sells world-class forming and scaffolding equipment. Demand for Form-Scaff’s products has also led to a burgeoning international export market, including lucrative markets in Africa, the Middle East and Australasia.
The company is a major supplier of formwork and scaffolding. The quality of its products has ensured that the company has maintained its position among other global suppliers. Products include:
- Vertical Formwork
Tifa, Tifa-Lite, Econo-Form and Multi-Form are some of Form-Scaff’s popular systems used for vertical-formwork applications such as columns, walls and beam sides. Circular applications are also possible using the very popular Tifa-Lite Flex system or Multi-Form with radius walers.
- Horizontal Formwork
Form-Scaff’s latest addition, Kwik-Deck, offers outstanding concrete finishes in combination with safety and cost-effectiveness. Other products in its decking range include the tried-and-proven Kwik-Strip system, complemented by its vast range of fibreglass coffers and troughs for single and double waffle-slab construction. Multi-Form offers the flexibility of using main and secondary bearers at any required spacing, while Econo-Form is normally used to support heavy, civil-type structures such as bridge decks.
From Kwik-Stage, BS Props and Alu-Up Props for standard decking structures to heavy-duty girders and Form-Scaff’s new Super-Beam range for unsupported spans, Form-Scaff has what it takes to carry almost any load. Other products also include Form-Soldier Shores, Tri-Shores and the new Super-Shore (100-ton capacity).
Form-Scaff offers Kwik-Stage as the standard and proven scaffolding system for both the construction and industrial industries. Kwik-Lock, the self-locking tower scaffold system, is also available for light-duty access projects.
- Special Formwork
Form-Scaff’s dedicated ‘Special Formwork Factory’ produces millions of rands worth of high-quality, purpose-made shutters for the construction industry both locally and abroad. From column boxes to complex square to round tunnel shutters, Form-Scaff has the ability to produce almost any shape and size required
Form-Scaff stocks a vast range of sundry formwork and scaffolding products such as anchor screws, concrete buckets, builders’ trestles, road-forms, tie systems, and jack testing machines which can be ordered from any of its branches.
Form-Scaff’s vision centres on delivering uncompromising formwork and scaffolding solutions through its people, products and service. At every level within Form-Scaff, you will encounter experienced, skilled and passionate people. The specialised Product Development teams and Technical Support teams have a wealth of experience.
At Form-Scaff, service is more than a courteous follow-up. And it is more than a well-worded proposal or a half-hearted promise of delivery. Service is an all-encompassing ethos that drives the company. It is a total commitment to customer service that embraces both product and people. Form-Scaff has always had international branches in Port Louis, Mauritius, Windhoek, Namibia, and Santiago in Chile. Less successful branches were in Mozambique, Uganda and Botswana which were closed during the 1990s – a period when the company’s focus was almost solely on the booming South African construction market. The company has been supplying equipment, both standard formwork and special once-off products, for many different local and international projects in countries as far afield as the United Kingdom, China, Russia and Qatar, as well almost every African country.
“Our focus has now turned to actual branches in sub-Saharan African countries, under the directorship of Klaas Pouwels, Form-Scaff’s Business Development Director. Our new branch in Accra, Ghana, was opened on 1 January 2013 and is headed up by Rob Channon. A new branch in Kitwe, Zambia, will be opened on 1 March, and a third branch in Nacala, Mozambique, will be opened by the end of June, “all of which illustrate how aggressive our move into Africa is,” explains Els. WACO is also in the process of opening a fully functional branch in Swaziland after doing business there for many years via its export department. The company has opened a second branch in Chile, South America this time in Copiapó, a city 800km north of the capital, Santiago. Form-Scaff has further expansion plans regarding Africa which will see it operating in another five countries by 2015.
SGB-Cape Offshore Market
SGB-Cape is the market leader in scaffolding erection and insulation services and has supplied the South African market with this expertise for well in excess of 60 years. Its clients in the power-generation, petrochemical, oil and gas, and mining market segments have received the benefits of the expertise it has built up over the years with its more than 4 000 employees who are focused on ensuring clients receive the best service possible. Els is excited about SGB-Cape’s newest growth initiative, the offshore oil and gas market, which is under the directorship of Garth Gray. This initiative essentially provides equipment and services at sea without, as far as possible, impairing production on the vessel. These services are provided for owners and operators of drilling rigs (ships, semisubs, jack-ups), FPSOs (floating production, storage and offloading), crane barges and fixed production platforms off the West and East African coasts.
The services SGB-Cape will be concentrating on are:
- Scaffolding personnel and materials.
- Painting skills and equipment.
- Insulation services.
- Nondestructive inspection services.
- Rope access.
At present, SGB-Cape provides access-scaffolding skills and material for numerous pipe-laying barges and semisubmersibles that operate around Africa, and also for a few vessels operating in other areas around the world. It is WACO Africa’s intention to grow its offerings within the existing client base, providing additional services and products for their vessels. This is currently in progress, with groups of personnel becoming multiskilled by undergoing various training courses such as scaffolding, rigging and painting.
SGB-Cape is targeting various countries such as Ghana and Angola for potential maintenance contracts in respect of the more permanent structures such as platforms and FPSOs. It is currently investigating new types of access systems, as it believes this unique offering will save clients both time and money and will ultimately assist them in providing an even better service. SGB-Cape has the expertise in overcoming logistical concerns such as visa constraints applying to expatriate workers, local-content legislation, tax implications and logistics. WACO is a one-stop shop for suppliers, and has been for the past 63 years. Safety has always played a significant and vital role in the daily activities of WACO Africa. Its success as Els explains, “is getting the structures and flow right”.
The board’s commitment to growth into Africa and reaching the next level is palpable. WACO Africa strives to be a first-rate, service-oriented company that is competitively priced, and it is obviously moving in the right direction.
WACO Africa Crossing Borders
WACO Africa is a leading industrial and commercial services company specialising in formwork, shoring, scaffolding, sanitation, and modular and relocatable buildings. WACO Africa is a subsidiary of WACO International and its operating divisions include Form-Scaff, SGB-Cape, Abacas Space Solutions and Sanitech.
Since 1952, when WACO International was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the company has shown significant growth and development in South Africa and abroad. In 1990, WACO disposed of noncore assets and focused on forming, shoring, scaffolding, sanitation, and relocatable
CASE IN POINT | WACO
by Shalane van Rensburg