Last year government construction expenditure increased 5%. iX is relatively new, so what will be the company’s planned contribution to the sector?
iX’s aim is to ensure we address the critical challenges our country is facing. It used to be energy, now it is water. The country doesn’t always have the budget to solve the issues so we also look to external funding.
What are your key areas of expertise and how do they impact the socio-economic development of the country?
We are a multi-disciplinary engineering company: we can do anything infrastructure related. We are competent in energy, and in terms of water we’ve assisted with dams and reservoirs throughout the country. Also rail and transport infrastructure, and integration of transport systems.
What is iX’s capacity in the realm of smart cities?
We are lucky to have a mix of experienced and up-and-coming engineers, which gives us a broad approach. We have engaged in a lot of transport planning around the smart cities model, and we are keen on innovation. We are as much in the technology space in this regard too.
If we look at Africa as a whole, are you primarily focused in the SADC space or does iX have intentions to work throughout the continent?
Our African strategy is to focus on key growth areas and politically stable countries. This is the case in Benin where we were asked to come on the basis of our experience and BEE status: opportunities lie not only in SADC, but the continent as a whole.
How do you procure new clientele?
We use different channels: the Africa House service for example, referencing their reports for growth opportunities. We also engage Eskom and Transnet to offer solutions and try to penetrate the African market. We speak to local embassies to understand local needs and deal with project finance houses as they’ll know of pending projects.
Your position as CEO ticks two important boxes; transformation and gender equality. What are your thoughts as a role model in that aspect?
’m a big supporter of gender equality. Since iX’s inception we’ve had 3 women in key executive roles. I aspire to bring in even more women to the team. We pride ourselves on having a balanced team of professionals and making sure everyone is empowered.
There is 1 engineer per 227 people in Brazil whereas its 1 per 3100 in South Africa. What do you think needs to be done to ramp up the amount of available engineers? Is it policy or education?
There are many factors that affect the attractiveness of the sector. We need to promote engineering amongst women, and In the rural areas they are not exposed to the industry. Interest must be passion-driven. You have to want to study engineering, that way they can excel in the field.
As the country’s only female CEO of an engineering firm, what has been the feedback you’ve received?
The feedback has been positive. We are the biggest black-owned engineering consultancy in the country and this is seemingly what these key clients have been yearning for.
Where do you hope to take the business in the next 3 to 5 years?
I want to innovate. We currently under-utilise the technology available and I would like for iX to be more technology inclined in the coming years. I’d like to adopt the Mercedes Benz model: they’ve done a great job automating their business. And 600 robots in operation hasn’t meant fewer jobs.
We are exploring the use of drones and looking to integrate our software. Our core business is software but this technology needs a skilled workforce to oversee and implement. In fact, our team is likely to grow: technology allows us to increase work volume by improving efficiency.