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Capital projects in Africa: The new frontier

Read how Accenture's integrated project management can help deliver high performance for capital investments in Africa.


Few regions in the world offer better growth potential for capital projects than Africa. A wealth of natural resources, rising commodity prices and improved standards of living in urban pockets—all set against a backdrop of growing political stability—are prompting governments and companies to invest heavily in large capital projects across the continent.

There are, however, a number of key challenges that organisations still need to overcome, particularly in the areas of regulation and taxation, financing, localisation, skills and logistics. Despite these obstacles, however, organisations can achieve high performance by adopting a business approach to capital project management.

In concrete terms, this means integrated project management, front-loaded project planning, dedicated business units and long-term workforce planning. Companies will also need to build key supply-chain capabilities in strategic sourcing, intelligence, risk management and advanced analytics.


Africa is increasingly becoming an attractive destination for long-term capital investment. Several factors make a compelling case for global companies to play a part in this unfolding growth story:

  • An abundance of natural resources, including proven reserves of diamonds, gold, manganese, copper and coal.

  • Around 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves eight percent of its natural gas reserves.

  • Economic growth of 4.8 percent in 2013, compared with 4.5 percent in 2012 and 3.4 percent in 2011.

In addition, incomes have been rising across urban pockets of sub-Saharan Africa. Consumer spending in the region is growing at a steady four percent a year, and is expected to be worth $1 trillion by 2020. This has resulted in the emergence of a new middle-class, estimated by the African Development Bank at around 300 million people.

Connected to this development are mounting expectations of higher living standards and improved infrastructure. In response, governments and parastatals (quasi-governmental agencies) have unveiled massive infrastructure development plans. These capital investments can be bankrolled with rising royalty receipts from higher commodity prices and buoyant corporate tax and income-tax revenues. Governments are also pursuing public-private partnerships for the funding, planning and execution of capital projects.


Accenture’s analysis of available information shows that several African countries—South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique in particular—will all experience considerable growth in large-scale infrastructure projects.

However, capital investment in Africa is not without its challenges. The risks and complexities that typically accompany the execution of an infrastructure project are often compounded in a region that is still at an early stage of structural transformation.

So how does an investor complete a project on time, on budget and maintain high quality standards while realising an optimal return on investment? The answer to achieving high performance in Africa lies in understanding and managing these risks and complexities.

Key Findings

Africa’s capital-projects ecosystem presents investors with challenges in the following areas:

  • Regulation and taxation
  • Localisation
  • Financing
  • Skills
  • Logistics

Accenture believes that large and complex capital projects increasingly need to be managed like businesses. In other words, capital project management must think and act like business owners, not project managers. This means that critical business issues such as workforce management, defining and measuring success, stakeholder relations, planning, monitoring and governance all need to be addressed effectively to enable robust decision making on multi-year projects.

In short, capital project businesses need a vision and strategy, key performance indicators that reflect target outcomes, the right technology to support those outcomes and a stakeholder-management plan to facilitate the right and timely decisions. Without a holistic view of the end state, and transparency across all the steps required to get there, Africa’s capital projects will not reach their full potential.


Accenture recommends that capital project management in Africa should focus on five best practices:

  • Integrated project management

  • Front-load project planning

  • Creating dedicated capabilities

  • Key supply-chain capabilities

  • Planning for a high-performance workforce that aligns with the project life cycle

Accenture has identified a number of key drivers of high performance capital projects. By following these principles, capital project teams will be able to substantially increase their likelihood of on-time performance, meeting the business case needs, delivering projects at reduced cost and making sure their projects are focused on operational readiness.

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