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The Business Case for Digital Twins [in Africa]

Africa – making the case for Digital Twins in Construction

As a degree certified and professionally qualified construction executive, with over 20 years experience across the global construction industry, I am heavily invested in leading, managing and delivering construction projects across the continent of Africa. The on-going conversation and growing appetite regarding the use of digital twins in construction, has received my attention with much interest.

A deep dive into the role of digital twins conversation using artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), blockchain technology, plus augmented and virtual reality (AR / VR) in digital twins, and it’s added value to the built asset owner(s) ie Client(s) has led me to share some key benefits as highlighted below:

  • The Pre-Construction stage activities / processes, dictate that time could be significantly reduced [ahead of construction], accompanied by strong budget [cost] certainty as enabled by real time costs and informed cost management;

  • A full and detailed design in form of a live digital twin would provide the end built asset owner with full design confidence and such provide the entire design team with improved accountability;

  • An effective and real time “live” change management process;

  • Main Contractor [and wider Supply Chain] execution of the digital twin would help to improve design interpretation and construction delivery times; and

  • The evolution and enhancement of remote working for cross boarder professional services, will flourish; afforded by the digital twin process, which will enable unlimited engagement with stakeholders.

Why Africa?

The type and size of projects being discussed / proposed or underway and their impact, will generate the expansion of whole cities, focusses upon urban regeneration. This activity will both create and drive population growth across Africa and inform [and demand!] the need for new technologies in the construction industry. The Client facing demands, will enable efficiencies and generate investor confidence.

Some examples of Top 10 Major Construction Projects in Africa 2021, slated for delivery across the continent, are mentioned here | Credit: CK (

The wider acknowledgement of the construction sector potential, by leading and well respected bodies like the RICS, regarding the impending digital transformation of the construction industry, is there but still yet to recognise and fully appreciate the ‘true value’ and 'market potential' of digital twins. A recent RICS / WBEF event, hosted the same discussion; the content of which can be seen here.

The creation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) will accelerate intra-Africa trade and thereby boosting Africa’s trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy in global trade negotiations. Major infrastructural investment will follow; as can be seen here

Inspiration and the 'data-driven' technical challenge

My good friend, colleague and fellow Quantity Surveyor, DCS Founder and Chair Bola Abisogun OBE FRICS, recently penned an article “Commonwealth Strategy to drive global growth for DiverseCity Surveyors”. With 19 African countries amongst the 54 Commonwealth member states, the positive and future [long-term] impact of the DCS Commonwealth Strategy will strategically support RICS in many ways. Following on from the UK’s [31.12.20] departure from the European Union, new commercial activity will be required that demand greater efficiencies in both trade and much more; within and across the global construction industry. The development of digital twin applications for specific 'use-case(s)' _ convened as part of his wider industry contribution at the University of Cambridge / Centre for Digital Built Britain, will undoubtedly enable a number of ‘tried and tested’ business models to be exported across the Commonwealth Nations.

In summary, I therefore feel the time is now for Clients / Investors and those with a long-term interest in Africa, to take note of this emerging technological [but data-led] advancement. Talk of the use of digital twins across the global construction industry - both within the DCS network and elsewhere - has inspired me and I am keen to progress the conversation with my construction peers and other colleagues across the built environment.

Credit: Allan Lwanga MRICS, is the Global Programme Lead for MENA Region at CBRE [with a focus on Africa].


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