Our customers are feeling optimistic about 2020, in a noticeable shift from the recent negativity about prospects for our industry.
This is because many timber treaters have become accustomed to the challenges facing our industry and have responded by offering new products and finding new markets.
Segments of the market will continue to face difficulties due to constraints in their traditional customer base. Nevertheless, companies are becoming creative in finding solutions to avoid the calamity they feared, and this has unleashed a new sense of energy and positivity.
This attitude will be helpful as we embark upon a new decade – one in which change will be wholesale and rapid. For our industry, one of the major changes already underway is that of mechanisation. We expect a large proportion of the industry to mechanise the most labour-intensive aspects of their operations in the near future and that this, in the medium term, will give them an edge over their competitors.
It is unfortunate that some workers will lose their jobs, but we expect these jobs to be absorbed due to growth of the industry, providing potential for these workers to be upskilled and preparing them better for the future.
We believe our customers will demand more from their suppliers in 2020. These expectations will include that their suppliers’ businesses are sustainable and that they are contributing positively to the industry. Dolphin Bay’s customers have come to expect and require our value-added services. This comes in a context in which, overall, companies are wanting to do cleaner business, realising this is the only way to secure their continued operation.
The attitude will be helpful as we embark upon a new decade – one in which change will be wholesale and rapid.
Africa has been called the world’s “last growth frontier”. This brings extremely exciting opportunities. There is a fast-growing young population in Africa, and a fast-growing entrepreneurial spirit in this generation. It may be disorganised at present, but it is only a matter of time before more structured growth occurs.
Like their counterparts across the world, this is a generation wanting to make a positive contribution to the world around them. We see youth wanting to build companies they can be proud of, and for their work to connect to their sense of purpose, even while they aspire to a middle-class lifestyle. Many are succeeding in these aspirations, which is developing the demand for housing and services and, in turn, treated timber.
This is our positive observation, although there is a dark shadow: that of past mistakes, for which a number of generations have had to pay the consequences, visible in the lack of infrastructure.
Young Africans are tired of seeing corrupt government officials enriching themselves while in office for a short duration, serving themselves instead of the people they were elected to serve and, in the process, doing irreparable damage to industries and progress.
Much timber has traditionally been imported into African countries, but there has been considerable investment in plantations in recent decades and these trees are now close to being ready for harvesting. This will be a boost for industry on the continent.
A decade of profound shifts
This decade will usher in huge shifts, including new technologies, new social experiences, new ways of gaining a school and university education, new working cultures and new corporate hierarchies. Some young people arrive at work with a narcissistic and highly materialistic outlook these days, but a larger proportion is energetic and hungry for knowledge, looking for work that grows their sense of purpose. They question the way things are done and are willing to take risks and go the extra mile.
This is the nature of our own team at Dolphin Bay and, I believe, it is why our company is thriving.
This is an era too, in which cheap and poor-quality products, including sub-standard poles, will be phased out. Business leaders are seeking authenticity and commitment from their partners. This is not something that can be sold through marketing. It can only be experienced.
Dolphin Bay is well-positioned and equipped to offer our customers and industry this experience.