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PPC GIBS Building Africa Report


PPC poured its first cement in 1902. On that day, Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States (POTUS). He would become the first POTUS to ride in an automobile. On 31 May that year, the Second Boer War ended in South Africa. The year also saw the founding of the football club now known as Real Madrid, the year of the Aswan Dam on the Nile and the glittering premiere of the Hunchback of Notre Dame in Monte Carlo.

How the world changes in just a few generations! A child today would be forgiven for thinking of Roosevelt chiefly as a dam in Arizona. South Africa has lived through close-on three decades of democracy, and Real Madrid holds 34 La Liga titles and 13 European Cup/UEFA Champions League trophies in the cabinet.

Of course, as the saying goes, sometimes the more things change, the more things stay the same. The internal combustion engine that powered Roosevelt’s journey remains the heart of most cars today, despite the inroads made by electricity-powered cars. The mighty Aswan Dam holds firm, and Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo lives on in the form of a Disney animation.

PPC lives through this same contradiction of consistency and change. After more than a century of having been listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, it remains, at its heart, a producer of Portland cement. This most enduring of products

  • albeit vastly improved in many dimensions
  • remains the cornerstone of homes, bridges

and skyscrapers the world over. The company’s geographic footprint has been more expansive. PPC operations now spread from the original home in South Africa all the way to Ethiopia. The product line reflects that growth, now covering everything from fly ash to plaster.

In a faster and faster changing world, PPC has never been more cognisant of the need to evolve. The inaugural PPC-GIBS Building Africa Report is part of this effort to ensure the company stays relevant and successful in the years to come.

However, the very nature of building big things that make the world more prosperous is transforming at a head-spinning rate. So, we think beyond cement. What is next? Be it gradual or eruptive, what are the alternatives growing in usefulness and disrupting us before our eyes? Hybrid concrete is one of the more gradual solutions. Timber is increasingly powerful as an alternative building material, both in the form of small improvements to building, and the near total replacement of more traditional materials. We are also able to build houses that last a millennium– and we ask if we should. Mimicking the natural world, 3-D printing and building “like Lego” are two more smart ways we consider to build Africa better.

We move swiftly onto the topic on everyone’s minds in every corner of the world. Cement is carbon intensive, and we all want to address that challenge. Far from treating this as a threat, PPC sees the opportunity in doing more with less. In the Decarbonisation chapter, we dive directly into this challenge both from an engineering angle and a prickly political one.

Next is a deep dive into infrastructure as an industry, applying the mental habits of a business person. We think through interest rates, the opportunity of capacity and how to finance it all.

Continuing in the line of sustainability, our next topic is inclusivity. The intuitive take that cement and the built environment are dominated by men is backed up by statistics. We tackle this challenge with ideas to manage diversity better.

Finally, we apply our minds to the Africa that is represented most popularly by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. We have known for a long time that trading among the countries of the continent is still far too limited. We can raise the tide for all ships by increasing the volume and quality of cross-border connectedness. We close with a chapter investigating this as creatures of international trade and transfer pricing.

Over 130 years, PPC has cemented a legacy as a reliable and supportive Pan-African industry partner, with a range of hard-working, 100% local, 100% premium quality products. Today, our products remain as proudly South African and unshakeable as the people who invest in them. The PPC-GIBS Building Africa Report 2022 is both a celebration of where we have come from and a hard look at where we are going.