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PPC calls for greater innovation in Africa

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World Cement,

Alta Walker, PPC’s Head: Innovation, says that Africa’s concrete industry has huge potential, but innovation is needed to realise it.

“Africa is growing and her people are urbanising rapidly—as a result, she is constructing infrastructure at a huge rate,” says Walker. “But an opportunity of this scale also represents a massive challenge for us as an industry: we will need to think creatively about new ways of manufacturing, designing and financing our projects if we are to succeed.” 

Though Africa’s potential as a continent is vast, Walker cautions that African markets are extremely diverse, and solutions will need to be tailored accordingly. Overall, a shortage of engineering and technical skills means that traditional construction methods and design practices will have to be rethought to meet the demand for housing in particular.

In addition, says Walker, meeting Africa’s needs will require innovation across the entire construction life cycle. Fundamental rethinking of this nature will be required to overcome a range of challenges, which include affordability, environmental sustainability and long implementation time frames. Africa can also benefit tremendously by adapting global solutions to local conditions. 

Using innovative materials is only part of the solution, Walker emphasises. While manufacturers will have to look at ways of producing products like cement more sustainably, traditional design approaches will also need rethinking. For instance, the construction phase of any building accounts for around 15% of its total energy footprint, while 85% is produced during the life of the building. By designing for energy efficiency, however, the 15% contributed by construction can be more than offset by savings during the building’s useful life. 

One of the biggest barriers to innovation is the difficulty of obtaining customer buy-in. “Changing customer perceptions will demand innovative marketing approaches,” she says. “The whole value chain will have to collaborate in innovating if we are to realise the opportunity and realise the benefits.”

Adapted from press release by

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