Coffey Projects: Creating change to develop a Continent

Like much of Africa, South Africa’s economic future is very much dependent on infrastructure development and a myriad of projects are making a huge difference. With the Government set on upgrading infrastructure, there remains a wealth of opportunity for companies with world class expertise. For Coffey Projects, that forte comes through project management.

The Johannesburg-based company, along with its sister business focused on South African Mining, is a division of Australian consultancy group Coffey International Limited. The business specialises in project management and has acquired extensive experience in commercial, leisure and residential property development around the world, with projects in the Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.Coffey01

“A number of African countries are amongst the fastest growing in the world, but poverty and instability continue to affect the lives of millions of people living on the Continent,” states the company website.

“Building in-country capability is essential for sustainable growth. At Coffey our expert teams of project managers, international development specialists, environmental consultants, geotechnical engineers, mining engineers, geoscientists and technicians will help you take your project from concept to closure – on time, on budget,” the site continues.

The consultancy has been delivering project management services for iconic projects such as the US$5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, the Jumeirah Islands in Dubai, and the new Nedbank headquarters in Johannesburg – the first building in South Africa to be awarded a Green Star SA rating.

Coffey itself is a world leader in project management, boasting one of the largest and most knowledgeable pools of project managers with local knowledge, who have helped to deliver iconic and award-winning commercial, retail, residential, tourism and hospitality, industrial, urban redevelopment, health, education, justice and transportation infrastructure projects to hundreds of communities around the world.

As one might expect, the company applies the highest standards of quality management and its team is comprised of ISO 9001:2008 and IPMA accredited project managers.

The company was formed back in the 1950s, when David Coffey saw the potential for geotechnical engineering in Australia. It was a pioneering profession, yet to make inroads in this growing country.

Coffey travelled to Canada where he lived and worked, gaining valuable experience as a geotechnical engineer – and he brought his wealth of experience back to Australia in 1959 when he started his own business from his Sydney home, launching Australia’s first geotechnical engineering firm.

“It took just 4 years for Coffey to lead the market, edging out competitors that had arrived from overseas. By the mid-1960s, we were working across Australia and continuing to grow.

“In the 1970s, Coffey ventured overseas, creating new opportunities for the company. But it was during the 1980s that Coffey really expanded. In 1990, Coffey International Limited was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange,” the corporate website recalls.

The next decade was one of consolidation for the business as it transformed from a private company to a public entity. Then in the early 2000s, Coffey Projects went on the acquisition trail in a move that diversified the range of services provided, opening up new markets and the opportunity for expansion.

Coffey02By 2008 Coffey International Limited had acquired South African project management business Bovell, Freeman and Holley (BFH) in a R20 million transaction.

BFH had specialised in the hotel and leisure industry and added to the existing expertise already sat within Coffey Projects Africa Pty Ltd.

The acquisition underlined the untapped potential across the whole of the African Continent, with Coffey International Limited managing director Roger Olds at the time, saying that the addition of BFH provided an immediate increase in market share within South Africa, opened up opportunities in Southern, Central and Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean islands, and broadened the scope of specialist services offered by Coffey Projects.

“The integration of BFH into Coffey Projects is primed as the two companies have co-tenanted since April 2008. The companies work together well and there are significant opportunities immediately available from the merger.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing significant growth and future investment forecasts are strong. This is an ideal time for Coffey to expand in the region.”

“Now, more than 50 years after it began, Coffey employs about 4000 people right across the globe. We’re delivering smart solutions for our clients – and providing the innovation and insight that comes from a proud history of delivery,” the website describes.

Whilst many companies struggled with the new economic environment, Coffey Projects continued to accrue new business opportunities across the Continent. In June 2010, the company was engaged by Gruppo Investment Nigeria Limited to project manage the construction of the US$54 million Ikeja City Mall in Lagos, Nigeria. The development of Lagos’ second major shopping centre was completed in December 2010.

The mall represented Coffey Projects’ first venture into Nigeria and the first large scale project in Africa, with the company acting as principle agent and providing project management and tenancy coordination services from inception to completion of the entire project.

Mining remains another key area of expertise for Coffey Projects, who recently commented on the Mining Indaba that took place in Cape Town earlier this year:

“Recent and planned regulatory changes for mining exploration could support a stronger mining industry in Africa over the long term, but project developers need to know how to navigate the new regulatory environment effectively.

Coffey General Manager Geoservices Africa Chris Fredericks said the conference focus on reaffirmation was timely.

“Managing investment risk is an important consideration for the mining industry to ensure the delivery successful projects in Africa,” Chris said.

“Recent changes to the JORC code and pending updates to the SAMREC and SAMVAL codes will help improve the standard of mining exploration reporting – and improve the investment case for African projects.

““A clear understanding of these changes – along with a strong focus on social license to operate – will help support long term success in the African mining industry.”

“Fredericks said that the regulatory changes were, and are, an important step in increasing investor confidence, but those in the mining industry need to be clear on what the updated codes mean for their projects.

““Understanding these changes will help developers and explorers maximise the value of their projects and ensure their sustainability,” he said.

“He said fully understanding local issues affecting a project would ensure developers could mobilise quickly as the mining industry improves.

“Coffey has been operating in Africa for more than 20 years, in both the mining and international development industries.”

Such observations are nothing new for a business which has seen enormous change in its operational landscape. Indeed it can be said that Coffey Projects has a wealth of pioneering and innovative experience which continues to drive forward a successful business.