All the clean water in the world means nothing if the infrastructure to deliver it isn’t in place. Cost Affective, Low maintenance, easily installed pipes and pumping stations are vital for the continued development of multiple industries including agriculture, industry and mining, as well as the supply of clean “potable” water to populations all over Africa. EBM spoke with Donald Coleman from Sizabantu Piping Systems, one of the industry’s leaders.
Sizabantu’s history reads like a quintessential African success story. Founded in 2002 in KwaZulu Natal, the company quickly established itself as a supply and sales agent for Marley Pipe Systems, using that as a springboard to open new operations both across South Africa and internationally across Africa. The company built a reputation for quality, competitive rates, excellent service and “understanding” customer needs.
Sizabantu manufacture, sell and distribute “Appropriate Technology” plastic piping solutions for portable reticulations and bulk water supply lines. It also provides professional consultation and advice and assists with the construction and operation of pumping stations and other infrastructure. The company’s range of pipes systems, cover a wide variety of applications, namely, Civil Infrastructural, Agricultural irrigation and Industrial applications, as Don explains:
“One of our main focuses is on water utility infrastructure. Where water is conveyed in its raw state from dams, rivers or natural reservoirs, to water purification plants and is then redistributed as a potable water system to the towns and villages.”
Sizabantu’s specific focus is on supplying appropriate technology plastic pipe solutions to its clearly defined target markets, this is a classic example of market niche exploitation.
“Our industry players have gone through many changes of ownership and varied marketing strategies over the past years,” says Don. “This created a gap for us to fill, and soon the people in the Industry recognized our expertise and experience in plastic pipe systems. Our philosophy and focus hasn’t changed for the past 15 years.”
The company is also keenly aware of social issues and social responsibility as a corporation. “We are an accredited BBBEE (Broad Based Black Employment Equity) supply company. The Target procurement initiative was introduced by the South Africa Government in 2004 to encourage, Government, Municipal and Contractors, to purchase their materials from previously disadvantaged Black owned companies.
“Our contribution here starts with ensuring that the most appropriate technology “Fit for Purpose” piping systems are used for the application. We offer training on how to install our user-friendly products and ensure that we have the full basket of products needed to complete the project, i.e. “we offer a One Stop supply solution”.
In terms of our Social upliftment program, we purposely outsource as many functions, such as our transport and logistics, Security, Cleaning services and Engineering requirements. Our Skills development program starts with financially assisting nominated employees with their Commercial and or Technical Education at recognized learning Institutes. Professional Consultants are contracted to Mentor and train Operators in our factory in the various operational disciplines.
“Our business model is based on an Ownership Philosophy, where we encourage and reward key personnel with share scheme options in the company. This has helped create an ownership culture and has been key to the Positive energy and success of our business –
Sizabantu is particularly proud of its new factory in Richards Bay in KwaZulu Natal. Construction began in 2015 and is the first manufacturing facility on the African Continent, to produce Molecor Bi-axle Orientated TOM 500 PVC-O technology pipe. This has enabled Plastic Pipe to enter the traditional metallic pipe market, where large diameter, high pressure pipe is required for Bulk Water applications.
Sizabantu established a relationship with Molecor Canalziones from Spain in 2013, to market and distribute their acknowledged world leading Molecular Orientated PVC Technology in Southern Africa. The rapid acceptance of this product in the market, led Sizabantu and Molecor to form a manufacturing joint Venture in South Africa, to produce this new technology in Richards bay
“We were initially very cautious to just climb into manufacturing traditional plastic pipe commodities, which has its own set of problems. But when we were offered the license to manufacture this world leading technology product, this was the key to start our own manufacturing. Operation”
The factory is the first of its kind in Africa and the piping it produces is rapidly becoming the industry standard in South Africa, offering a range of pipe from 50mm to 800mm in diameter and capable of handling pressure up PN 25 bar. It will provide new jobs for the Richard Bay industrial area, reducing the company’s reliance on import products and making it easier to locally source components and equipment for much needed water infrastructure development.
As climate change accelerates, South Africa and areas across Sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly finding it vital to invest in water infrastructure both for agricultural and industrial purposes and for general civilian use. With droughts becoming more and more prevalent (Western Cape has borne the brunt of this recently in South Africa, and droughts are endemic across the continent) reliable low-cost infrastructure that can be easily installed and reliably used with little maintenance may mean the difference between life and death for many communities.
Water shortages and inefficient supply mechanisms also pose a problem for industrial development across Southern Africa. Mining, industry, power generation and particularly agriculture are highly water-intensive, requiring a steady water supply to operate. Without both effective transport and drainage solutions these industries may either grind to a halt or severely pollute the surrounding area.
Sizabantu and Molecor’s piping factory is now producing this new technology locally and has built up a good case history of this piping been successful installed and operation throughout Africa. Don explains its advantages:
“The product itself serves a definite need in Africa – that’s user-friendly plastic products which compete with metallic products. Metallic products require sophisticated installation equipment. The plastic technology we supply, fulfils the same function, but it’s much more user-friendly, cost effective, maintenance free and gives the Engineer “peace of mind” when specifying for emerging markets in Africa.
“That simplicity, free and ease of installation, is a confidence factor for the specifying Consulting Engineers. Who favour this product for Emerging Contractors who don’t have easy access to sophisticated installation equipment.”
“PVC Bi-Axle technology or PVC-O, is changing the random Molecular structure of the material to form a “chain” structure. This process doubles the strength of the material, giving it much stronger properties. This technology was developed some 30 odd years ago. The slow international acceptance of PVC-O pipe in the market, was hampered by some inherent problems with the integral jointing system of the pipe. PVC is member of the Thermoplastic family, which means it can be recycled and reshaped by applying energy. Thermoplastic is also known to have a memory. In other words, if energy is applied to a “converted” product and reshaped by applying heat, once it cools down it will remain in the new formed shape. However, if it is re-energized once again with heat, its “memory kicks in”, and the product will go back to its original converted shape. This was one of the challenges facing the bi-axle orientated PVC-O pipe industry, when the pipe was re-energizing to form a socket bell. The molecular structure wants to revert to its original random molecular construction. The Molecor technology has overcome this inherent problem, by orientating the pipe and socket in one process – so that’s really the trick in their technology.”
The three Cs
Sizabantu’s primary focus is servicing not only the purchaser of the material but all three parties involved with the piping system. The Customer, Consultant and Contractor. It is important that the needs of all three parties are fully understood and the best solution offered to meet each need. This is only possible by ensuring that we have good relationships with each one.
The company is also a member of the South African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association (SAPPMA), a regulatory body which oversees reputable industry players and ensures that piping and materials are manufactured to an appropriate standard.
At present, Sizabantu has a good foot print with strategically placed Divisions to service the market. There are 10 offices across Southern Africa, including Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West, Central, Kwa Zulu Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mozambique and Swaziland with an Export Division servicing Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe
The company has many plans and projects on the go for the future expansion to service sub-sahara Africa