Playing a major role in roads and infrastructure management in Africa

The success of the African continent will depend on its leadership, particularly in government. Those who are tasked with the important job of growing the continent through infrastructure should do all that it takes to make sure the projects are a reality within the shortest possible time. Without a proper road and rail infrastructure, Africa intra-trade will not happen and it will just stay a pipe dream.

This is the opinion of Mazwi Tunyiswa, CEO of leading toll operator, InstaToll Africa, who adds that governments should embrace the passion and enthusiasm of companies such as his that are there to assist with these projects and make sure that they are profitable and run well.

InstaToll Africa, formally known as Intertoll Africa, has been in existence for more than 40 years. It was acquired from Group 5 by a black consortium comprising of Mabentu Trade and Consulting, LSNM Holdings and Employee Trust and Management in November 2019.

King Williams Town born Tunyiswa leads the company with a focussed vision which embraces transformation in the infrastructure space – with the intention to make InstaToll Africa the leading roads and infrastructure management company in Africa and to be globally competitive using their inhouse build smart technologies and skills.

“We are 100 % black-owned, Level 1 BEE company with a broad-based employee ownership, demonstrating our commitment to the ideals of Black Economic Empowerment and Employment Equity. We make sure that our suppliers also meet the BBBEE requirements, and we provide training not only to our employees but also to communities in and around our area of operations. We will continue to play an important role in our sector to make sure there is sufficient transformation by empowering others and grooming emerging entrepreneurs in the sector.”

Tunyiswa, who among others have a BSC degree in Physics, a Master’s Degree in Electrical Communication Engineering and MBA from the University Of Cape Town, has more than 10 years of academic work and research experience. He also has more than 15 years of industrial development finance experience from the IDC, where he worked as a deal maker.

He says his previous experience prior to becoming CEO has groomed him for this role. “I regard myself as an entrepreneur with excellent management and leadership capabilities. I am a strong-willed person who is determined to make a difference in both my family’s life and that of my society. My motto is simple: Winning is not an option but a must. We cannot not succeed. We have to make this country work and it starts with each and every one of us,” the CEO says.

Referring to driving the company into the future, he describes himself as an adaptative leader.

“The leadership style that one uses vary from time to time, depending on the organisation and environment that one operates in, hence I use what I call an adaptative leadership style. I must also be entrepreneurial in managing the company because we are re-imagining our future and product range differently from the past, thus one must allow innovation and new ideas to come through while managing risk associated with new markets,” he told BBQ.

Penetrating these new markets are essential for InstaToll Africa to maintain and expand its African Footprint.

“We are currently operating in Zimbabwe, where we manage more than 800 kilometres of road on behalf of Infralink. And he encourages South African companies to embrace venturing across our borders in order to thrive and contribute to a stronger economy.

“We have recently been awarded a contract in Malawi that we will be implementing this year, opening a new market for the business. We believe that this is the first of many projects there and in the rest of Africa. We have also developed a new business unit offering mini electricity grid solutions to the market. This is a growth area we are pursuing vigorously throughout the continent.

“We have been shortlisted for a project in Kenya and are in discussions with a Nigerian group for new projects there. We aim to be a truly Pan African leader in our sector. The rest of Africa, despite its present challenges, offers best growth opportunities for our business,” Tunyiswa says.

However, doing business across the borders does have some challenges and Tunyiswa says there were definitely some lessons learnt as the risk of doing business is slightly higher and this must be taken into consideration and factored in during the planning and pricing processes.

“Building strong relations based on mutual trust and respect is key. Understand and anticipate the pitfalls associated with cross-border operations and in your legal agreements, plan for the worst and yet be agile enough to be willing to find a win-win solution in dealing with hard issues that may encounter with your stakeholders. Importantly take the necessary insurances.”

Looking at South Africa in particular, InstaToll Africa says it has learnt a lot from South Africa and the challenges faced by international companies and the demands by locals to be included in the economy.

“The inclusion of local partners in our business is paramount to our success. It could either be through employment at senior level or JVs at a project level. We believe in shared growth with the communities we operate in. If we grow, they will grow and they will have better living conditions and a prosperous future. Stakeholder and relationship management is also key. You must be willing to go onsite as the CEO to talk to the clients and employees. You cannot always send other people to do so. During business development and the negotiations stage it is important to take charge and be more visible. Decisions are taken quicker when you are there unlike when the team must come back for a decision.”

Boasting an inhouse-developed IT Toll System and MIS system (suited to the needs of toll operators and promotes efficient toll operations environments), the product of many years of experience as the operator, surely sets InstaToll apart from the rest.

“Our Toll system components are off-the-shelf and cost effective. In South Africa we are the only level 1 BBBEE company in this sector that is also run and managed by its owners. We are thus able to respond to clients’ needs and offer solutions instantaneously – in line with our name InstaToll,” Tunyiswa concludes.