Johannesburg – What started as a passion for drawing, planning, designing and constructing diverse renovations and architectural projects has evolved into adding value to social and health inclusion in South African Townships.
Andile Nonyane (41) is the founder and managing director of RDL, a 100% black owned infrastructure solutions company which specialises in building, construction and building maintenance. RDL buys pockets of land serviced or unserviced then design suitable green homes that they build through black SMMEs and black subcontractors while also giving them work opportunities and exposure into the property market.
The other wing of the company is involved in the building maintenance of large corporations where RDL is involved in the design and renovations of existing infrastructure. In 2015, Nonyane saw an opportunity in the property market, “the South African housing market was estimated to grow by 14% over the next seven years, but then the green sustainable housing demand outdid that number by 10%. This then told me more and more people wanted to live green and reduce their spending and consumption,” Nonyane said.
The sustainable housing demand was estimated to grow to R3 trillion in the next 5 years. Nonyane said that was the reason he wanted to build green homes. Nonyane explained that it was important for his company to be 100% black owned because the South African property market is dominated by white people.
“It was important for me to showcase that given an opportunity, we can creatively bring new fresh ideas into the market while transforming mindsets,” he said. For every three luxury houses RDL builds and sells, they build a medical facility in the township.
“The current ratio at a township like Atteridgeville where we have built our first medical facility is 1 is to 225 000, in simple terms, there is 1 hospital, 2 clinics and 2 medical centres for 900 000 people as opposed to a suburb like Centurion, where you have two hospitals, 20 clinics and 100 other medical facilities. The ratio there is only 1 to 3600, vs the 1 is to 225 000 in the township. This is an issue with most townships,” Nonyane explained.
The facilities they build are income-driven and self-sustainable while also addressing access to healthcare specialists in townships.
“We already have services like clinical psychologist, occupational therapist (specialising with kids and young adults), podiatrist and a general practitioner,” he further explained.
Nonyane further said that this means a pregnant woman can see a specialist, do a sonar, get a prescription and book the next appointment in the comfort of their vicinity. A rape victim can report an incident, get a medical report and get medication within the prescribed 72 hours saving them travel time and distress.
One of the challenges that RDL has faced is the high barrier to enter into the construction industry, because it is a capital-intensive industry, and the return on investment is not immediately seen. The second challenge is compliance because it is another capital-intensive exercise, there are costs and agreements needed before one unit can be sold.
“For example, costs of feasibility studies, application of bulk services, rezoning, architecture, quantity surveyors to name a few,” he explained.
RDL is mostly self-funded because there is a misalignment with most funding institutions. They tried getting funding from government institutions but it’s either their projects are not big enough or the beneficiaries do not fit the government's criteria.
On giving back to the community Nonyane said “we give back to the community in the form of education, empowerment and sourcing black students directly from our local FET colleges and universities”, he said.
RDL trains and equips students with skills needed for either their entrepreneurial journey or the workplace by building township medical facilities where people need them the most.
“Investing in our township economy is what excites us the most and sets us apart where we can make money while making a real quantifiable impact,” said Nonyane.
“The journey requires a person open to learning, open to constructive criticism, has an ear for the market’s needs, that has drive, as most times it’s a lonely journey that requires a lot of support,” Nonyane said.