Civil service

By utilising its international experience and blending it with an understanding of local cultures, South African firm Profica has grown into a pioneering force within the continent’s construction sector.

In the space of seven short years professional project and construction management company Profica has blossomed into a leading player in Africa’s building industry.

From its base in South Africa, this construction firm provides stand-alone projects to clients across the continent, as well as construction and development management services across both the public and private sectors.

The company, which has been accredited as a level one B-BBEE contributor, was formed in late 2004 by three friends who meet years earlier while studying at university.

“Following university we went our separate ways and worked as civil engineers for various profession project management companies around the world,” says co-founder and company director Shaylagh Thiel.

“Upon returning to South Africa we got together and utilised our international professional experience to set up the company.”

Thiel says he believes that the international experience of its management board is what makes it stand apart from other South African project management companies, while its team of professionally-accredited and highly-skilled project managers have helped it deliver high-profile projects in country’s as diverse as Libya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

“We have worked across a range of sectors, from residential to retail, and we’ve been involved in the construction of large shopping centres, commercial office buildings and industrial warehouses,” remarks Thiel. “We’ve also built schools, public hospitals and structures for pharmaceutical sector.”

In 2011, Profica was named South Africa’s number one project management company by Professional Management Review, which Thiel describes as a great reflection on the firm’s work as the award “comes directly from our industry and the people we work with most”.

A proud portfolio

Highlights within Profica’s project portfolio include an industrial development for Sonae Novobord — one of the largest wood-based panel producers in Africa.
“We worked on the expansion to its entire plant in White River, Mpumalanga, which was an intricate project that included the procurement and installation of the warehouse’s press line.

“The development involved close to 5,000 containers coming from various parts of the world with all the pieces of kit required for the project.”

Profica has also provided services for Nampak, the giant South African bottling company, for whom it is currently installing a new cullet plant.

In the commercial office buildings sector the firm has worked on a number of prestigious projects, as well as delivering hotel developments and large retail centres to various big name clients.

Adapting to change

Profica’s innovative approach has seen it take a leading role in bringing sustainability to the region’s construction industry.

“A year or two ago we didn’t have any green building rating tools in South Africa and we had to use rating tools from the UK and Australian,” notes Thiel.
“We were on the working group that put together the first commercial building rating tool launched in South Africa, and we were involved in putting together a similar rating system for the retail sector, for which one of our developments was used as a pilot project.

“We are currently on the panel that is overseeing the development of a residential sector rating tool, while some of our project managers have been accredited as green building professionals,” he adds.

The pilot project Profica worked on that was used in the development of a South African green building tool for the retail sector was Gugulethu Square. This bespoke 30,000 square metre shopping centre, built in one of Cape Town’s townships, has proven to be a very successful project and has helped Profica build up its sustainability credentials.

Out of [South] Africa

The name Profica was chosen by the company’s founders as it brings together the words ‘professional’, ‘project’, ‘management’ and, most evidently, ‘Africa’.
“For the first couple of years of the business we pretty much focused on the South African market as we built up relationships with various clients,” says Thiel.

“But our original business plan was to work across the African continent and that side of the business has certainly taken off very nicely in the past four years.”
From its head office in South Africa, Profica is today managing projects in 13 separate nations across the continent.

As the company continues to build up its African footprint it is gaining valuable experience from working in new and challenging markets.

“The most important thing about working in another country, not just Africa, is to understand the local legal frameworks and any possible local elephant traps,” Thiel remarks.

In order to overcome these difficulties the company often opts to enter into joint ventures with local partners.

“These partners bring local expertise to a project, while we bring our professional experience of processes and procedures,” says Thiel.

“In Africa there are not too many project management companies that have the experience we have, and we’ve got some great framework agreements with large multinational firms in place, whereby we manage all of their projects in Africa.

“We spent a lot of last year working on a business development plan, as well as targeting projects for this year, of which we’ve been appointed on at least 60 per cent,” he reveals.

Moving forward, the company is looking to continue building its team of professional, as it continues setting the standard in terms of its business offering.

“We will continue pushing into the African continent, while remaining the number one project management company in South Africa, and we will certainly try to establish ourselves as the number one company in Africa,” says Thiel.

Following a quieter year in 2011, during which Profica consolidated and looked ahead, the company is now gearing up what should become a very busy 2012.