Coffey Projects : Managing Legacies Across The Continent

Whilst the property boom in South Africa may have burst in 2008 as far as residential was concerned, commercial projects have continued apace. 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.

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.

Indeed in May 2011, Coffey Projects in Africa was awarded the Gold Award for project management. The awards recognise outstanding performance and were presented at the Construction Industry Leaders and Achievers Award Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosebank.

The award recognises customer service and satisfaction and each year, a prominent consulting firm in South Africa, conducts a national client survey on project management companies in South Africa.

The criteria sued to rate project managers is diverse and includes  communication, cost, integration management, procurement, risk, scope, team development and efficiency, with the awards aiming to set industry benchmarks, enhance industry standards and provide acknowledgement to project management companies who have demonstrated excellence, and their staff.

Speaking after the award, Trevor Clark, Manager Coffey Projects South Africa, commented: “This award is significant to Coffey Projects Africa from an internal and external perspective as it demonstrates that we are delivering and adding value to our clients as well as peers in the industry.

“It also serves as motivation to our staff to strive for continuous improvement and benchmark ourselves against the best.”

The parent company was established in 1959 and by 1990 had become publicly listed in Australia. It took a further decade for the company to expand globally and by 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.”

At the time the International Monetary Fund predicted year on year annual growth in the region of 7 per cent in the sub-Saharan area, with South African construction likely to offer excellent opportunities.

Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing and the slump that hit the world markets had a big effect on South Africa’s construction sector, with many projects subsequently mothballed.

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.

Commenting on the project, Coffey regional manager Africa Mike Duncan said: “Coffey has been working across a number of countries in Africa, with projects in the property, resources and government sectors. This is Coffey Projects’ first foray into Nigeria and we are excited about expanding our regional footprint to one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the most populous country in Africa.”

Reflecting the growth in retail outlets across Africa, the 28,000 square metre shopping centre was designed and built to international standards and anchored by a major South African supermarket chain and a five-screen cinema complex.

The project underlined the growing trend for shopping malls across Africa, which are creating jobs and providing invaluable services to communities, as Richard Bovell, Coffey Projects’ manager in Southern Africa, commented in 2010:

“We are excited to have the opportunity to deliver a much needed development to Lagos’ 18 million residents. The impact and benefits to the local community are enormous with this being only the second shopping centre of any significance in the city.

“The main contract works has been awarded to Cappa and D’Alberto, a well established local company, which ensures locals will also benefit from opportunities during the construction of development. This will gives us great exposure to local customs and business methodology.

“However, the project presents a number of challenges such as managing specialist sub-contractors from other parts of Africa and Europe and the logistics to import most materials required on time and within budget. Most importantly, we’ll have to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements,” added Bovell.

Closer to home, the company has also recently worked as consultant on the renovation of the Cresta Shopping Centre in Johannesburg.

As Africa’s commercial opportunities continue to manifest, it is essential that quality and experience take precedence in the rush to win contracts. At Coffey Projects, expertise, track record and local knowledge provide the platform for an exciting future.