In recent years South Africa has undergone transformation on a number of levels. One of the most striking changes in the landscape is the ongoing effort to upgrade the country’s infrastructure through a series of ambitious projects.
Of course transformation also extends to delivering equality in South Africa and Black Economic Empowerment has presented a variety of opportunities for businesses like Axton Matrix Construction.
The company is wholly black owned by and compliant with the BEE standards of the government of South Africa and a level 1 contributor. For the past 7 years and 8 months, Ogbe Aihevba has been CEO of Axton Matrix Construction and has witnessed the company’s growth:
“Axton Matrix is a building and civil engineering construction company. We build roads, civil engineering infrastructure and buildings. We also mentor smaller SMMEs (Small Micro Medium Enterprises) in the construction industry.
“The company was bought as a shelf company and registered in October 2005 as Hennox 479 cc, with two members. We started by offering project management services to SMMEs in construction and doing a few domestic sub-contracts whenever they were available.
“From those domestic contracts, we were able to register on the CIDB (Construction Industry Development Board) and from that point we were able to bid for our own jobs directly.
“As we began to expand, we brought on board a few associates to assist with the rapid growth we were experiencing. Seeing that the name “Hennox 479” was a generic name used by the original person that registered it as a shelf company, in 2008 we decided to do a re-branding of the company, settling on the new name “Axton Matrix Construction” with a catch phrase “A revolution in Construction Excellence” and a new logo with new colours. We are currently three Directors/Members and graded by the CIDB as a level 8CEPE and 7GBPE.”
The company has continued to grow and Aihevba says that the last annual report highlighted a turnover in excess of R95 million (exclusive of VAT). The company presently employs around 50 permanent employees but also hires temporary workers at peak times, which can swell from 100 to 300 additional personnel.
“Although we are graded as a level 8CEPE and 7GBPE company, we still regard ourselves as an emerging black medium construction company in South Africa,” Aihevba asserts.
Whilst the company is headquartered in Strubenvalley, Roodepoort (just north-west of Johannesburg), it has a national footprint, working on public sector projects predominately – up to 95 per cent of projects are for municipalities, provincial and national Government.
“Whilst we project-manage, our primary function is to build and 90 per cent of our projects are roads, parks and civil engineering infrastructure projects, although we also do buildings,” Aihevba confirms.
Adaptability has been a real strength of Axton Matrix and projects come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from R7 million up to R95 million.
Among the flagship projects that the company has been involved with are traffic calming measures in the cradle of humankind world heritage site; the Sharpeville constitutional walk and the Tsolo Road upgrade in Nancefield, Soweto.
Aihevba says there are a number of projects underway at present, these include: construction of the Booysens Bus layout facility; a public upgrade to the Inner City Commuter Links; construction of Rea Vaya BRT-NMT implementation in Orlando, Soweto; the Tsolo Road upgrade in Nancefield, Soweto; construction of roads and storm water management systems in Vlakfontein; construction of the Fuel and Price Pedestrian Bridge in Newclare, Johannesburg; the upgrading(from gravel to tar) of the D2405 road from Alverton to Rietfontein in Sekhukhune of Limpopo Province and a similar upgrade project for the D3502 road from Ga-Magonwa to Mosesetjane in Waterberg District of Limpopo Province.
Whilst the Government has bankrolled a portion of the funding for these projects, there is still a need for further capital, as Aihevba explains:
“For the most part, we are self-financing. We have credit accounts with a number of suppliers and try to honour our payment obligations as at when due in order to keep a good relationship with these suppliers of materials. We have also been blessed with reputable clients, who most of the time, honour their payment obligations to us. Our bank has also been supportive by allowing us a line of credit whenever necessary.
“We believe that things are improving for the industry and that they will get even better,” he continues.
In recent years the green movement has also played a significant role in projects, not something lost on Aihevba: “We are usually guided by the specifications of our client. We would typically have an environmental protection officer on our projects whose mandate is to make sure we comply with the Environmental Management plan and policies of the client, and adopt an environmental responsible and resource-efficient method throughout our construction sites.
“All businesses are having to adjust to this new trend of greening including supply chain management. The common object is to reduce the overall impact of our construction activities on human health and the natural environment by efficiently using energy, water, reducing waste and pollution. New technologies are constantly being developed so as not to adversely affect quality control systems. We try to play our part in updating ourselves on these new technologies.”
Aihevba feels that there remains a lack of skilled people in the industry and Axton matrix has taken steps to provide on the job training as much as possible.
Commercially the issue of credit remains a contentious one, with the company committed to negotiating favourable payment terms with creditors and finding help available through its bank.
“Most of our projects are acquired through open tendering process. We try to make our tender price as competitive as possible by keeping tab on current rates of construction materials from various suppliers. We try to give ourselves a more competitive edge by negotiating discounts with our suppliers; this is sometimes earned by honouring the credit payment terms issued by these suppliers,” Aihevba explains.
Recent investment in construction equipment indicates the positive outlook for Axton Matrix and provides extra autonomy according to Aihevba:
“We are trying to strengthen our resource base to reduce our dependence of other suppliers and ultimately reduce our cost allowable on our projects.
“We believe it is always a good time to be in this sector. We are enjoying the growth. We have grown tremendously. In the last couple of years we have had over 100 per cent growth in our turn-over. We attribute this to God’s favour and being able to deliver our projects to the requirements of our client in a very efficient manner. This has helped us to carved a niche for ourselves in the industry,” he concludes.