Somethings gotta give

I love this “last letter of the year” that I send to the BIM-osphere. It’s a time to reflect on where we are now compared to where we were a year ago. I started this year knowing in my bones that “something’s gotta give,” and give it has. The BIM Academy Africa has gone from strength to strength and I am certainly very proud of that.

It is no secret that South Africa’s slow economic growth, diminishing pool of construction work and professionals leaving our shores, lack of foreign investment and pressure by government to transform the sector are stripping the country’s motivation to advance with other leading countries. The rest of Africa has a different story to tell and I have been thrilled to be a part of Africa’s digital transformation process.

The end of 2017 saw the BIM Institute’s  and Whitefrog first African strategic implementation of BIM for the Ethiopian Government Ministries under the Ethiopian Construction Project Management Institute (ECPMI.) Throughout 2018, I have been privileged to initiate and advise numerous other African and recently North European government bodies. We have already to date trained and internationally accredited 422 professionals in various BIM courses under the Academy wing and provided our BIM4Students curriculum for 2019  into 4 Universities in South Africa ( Wits, TUT, UCT and DUT).

This digital advancement across Africa certainly comes with its challenges and obstacles. However, some public and private sectors are being misled and driven to focus solely on the technology. Now don’t get me wrong, I love technology! It is a great enabler and the tools get ever more powerful and, well, cooler. Yet there needs to be more focus towards the development and implementation of appropriate programmes and measures aimed at best practice and improved performance of public and private sector clients and other participants in the construction delivery process. There is a place for both, but we can’t lose focus on the format of information, the use and users of the information, and how they will best access it, while being dazzled by the shiny tech tools.

The world of Building Information Modelling continues to evolve and the concept of designing ‘2D drawings’ is creaking and groaning to a slow and grinding halt, dragged there by those clinging on to old design processes. We are way past the point of no return now.

The importance of developing African classification standards for design and operations or aligning ourselves with an international standard continues to be controversial and technology vendors hell-bent on gaining control of the market with numerous acquisitions across the globe. The point is that much-needed efficiencies can only be achieved through a fundamental shift in building standards and education. Every country on the African continent has its own legislative, cultural and contractual drivers, yet it is still up to each and every individual and organisation to futureproof themselves by exploring new ways of thinking.

Look out for the release of my new book It’s your movein January 2019. This “no holds barred” digital publication gives African construction professionals that are reinventing themselves and the sector that they work in an honest and insightful guiding hand (and sometimes a kick) in the right direction.


I wish you and your family a very happy and safe festive season, and a productive and successful 2019.


Wishing you all the very best,

Vaughan Harris

Executive Director – BIM Institute