The impact of COVID-19 on infrastructure development in South Africa

Across the globe, countries are working tirelessly to find solutions to the new global pandemic that has caused unimaginable disorder and change. 

According to the World Health Organisation, the coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that “spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.” In an effort to fight the illness, medical experts recommended global social distancing to flatten the curve and slow down the spread of the virus. The implementation of social distancing has forced many businesses to shut down. 

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council announced a nationwide lockdown, enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act. Following the national lockdown, which was implemented in the week following our first confirmed cases, various large organisations, as well as small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs), temporarily shut down. Only essential sectors and workers are permitted to progress with work. According to the Cooperative Governance Traditional Affairs, this includes companies within the food production sector, health organisations, financial sector, disaster management, emergency services, logistics, transport, safety and security agencies and other basic service and production fields. 

How COVID-19 affects the economy 

The South African economy has been unstable since before the global coronavirus pandemic. This means that the pandemic has added intense pressure to an already shrinking economy. Industry experts are projecting further shrinkage and having been relegated to junk status by credit rating agencies, and an announcement of a jump into recession, the state of the economy will continue to look grim, according to this article

How COVID-19 impacts infrastructure development

With the economy looking grim, infrastructure development is disrupted in an unprecedented manner as the movement restrictions will slow production. Reports are already indicating global mass-production closures, supply chain disruptions and immediate impact on Africa’s access to industrial components and manufactured goods. The construction industry has also taken a considerable hit as the Master’s Builders Association reports cash flow challenges due to the construction work shutdown. 

Thus, the COVID-19 impact on infrastructure development will be felt through delays, which indicate an immediate push back on production by many months. Critical infrastructure is, as stipulated by the Critical Infrastructure Act No 28 of 2019, only critical if the functioning of such infrastructure is essential for the economy, national security, public safety and the continuous provision of basic public services. An example of critical infrastructure under the current circumstances is healthcare infrastructure.  

DBSA's response to COVID-19

The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) believes that the safety of employees takes priority in all key decisions. Therefore, since the nationwide lockdown, the DBSA has cancelled all regional and international travel by employees and implemented work from home strategies. However, our adoption of the measures and principles recommended by the World Health Organisation and the lockdown does not impact the delivery of our organisation’s services. We are even more encouraged to continue sourcing funds which are vital in the processes of building sustainable infrastructure in South Africa, and Africa as a whole.

We have created short -term humanitarian interventions and long-term initiatives which are necessary for the fight against the pandemic. A total of R150 million has been committed to these interventions to ensure that we play a meaningful role in alleviating the hardship and suffering of the country’s most vulnerable groups.

The challenges after COVID-19

The unbearable truth is that COVID-19 has changed, and will forever change, our world as we know it. It’s impossible to quantify the extent of the impact it will have on the South African economy and the development of future infrastructure. However, what remains clear is that we need to continue fulfilling our mandate of helping with the development in South Africa. The future relies on our unified messaging and actionable responses.