Simbi’s Khato Civils: A rising African giant in construction and design | Malawi Nyasa Times

Khato Civils is a black-owned African values driven design and construction company committed to contributing towards infrastructure development in the African continent.

South African based Malawian billionaire Simbi Phiri

Khato shareholders, directors, senior management 

Khato equipment 

With its headquarters in Johannesburg Khato Civils has extended its operations beyond the South African borders into countries including Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Namibia.

The company’s long-term vision is to have 80% of its projects spread outside South Africa into the rest of the African Continent.

From small beginnings in 2006 with an estimated R100 million annual turnover Khato Civils has grown into a key role-player in the construction and design industry with an estimated over R3 billion annual turn-over.

Some of the key projects the company is involved in include the R5.5 billion Lake Malawi Water Supply Project – on its completion the project will supply 5 million litres of potable water drawn from Lake Malawi to the City of Lilongwe – changing the lives of the city’s over 2-million residents.

There is also the R3 billion Giyani Water and Sanitation Revitalisation Project in Limpopo – where Khato Civils is in a joint-venture with South Zambezi.

The company is also involved in the M1-Double Decker Bridge Rehabilitation project in Johannesburg.

Khato Civils’ phenomenal growth happened under the leadership of African entrepreneur par excellent and philanthropist Chairman Simbi Phiri.

Born in Malawi Mr Phiri is a naturalised South African who believes that to become a successful African businessman one must be steeped in the African values of Ubuntu and commitment to the sustainable development in communities one operates.

This – according to Phiri – is what differentiates him from the non-African foreign investors whose key mission has been to exploit the continent’s resources without any commitment to developing the communities that are the historical owners of those resources.

“What we see in Africa today are the holes left by those whose mission was to exploit Africa for its natural resources. As a businessman I believe I had the choice of repeating what the exploiters did to the continent – but that would be contrary to my upbringing as an African child”, says Phiri.

It is this upbringing that drives Phiri to establish sustainable relationships with the communities where his company operates.

“It is win-win situation wherein the community – serve as a sounding board for us. This helps us to understand their needs. Such relationships we establish with the communities help us to create an atmosphere of trust and security – something every business needs inorder to run successfully in a given community.

“European investors invest in Africa and then take their profits out of the continent. As an African company Khato Civils invests money in Africa and esures that the profits generated stay in the continent,” added Phiri adding that the financial success of the company is based on business model he has adopted.

He says instead of depending on hiring equipment one of Khato Civils business drive has been the acquisition of heavy plant equipment.

“Khato Civils buys and owns its heavy plant equipment – this has alleviated the costs of having to hire equipment and also enhanced our asset base – by having our own mechanics and workshop, we are also able to uphold our standards and timelines”, explains Phiri.

Currently the company is estimated to own over R3 billion worth of heavy equipment.

Phiri says one of the advantages Khato Civils has over its competitors is its skilled personnel which delivers quality and efficient service to its clientele.

Adds he: “We employ very skilled professionals and pay them salaries commensurate to their skills and performance. We also have an effective skills development programme that ensures we sustain our skills level.”

Khato Civils also has a bursary scheme and an internship programme for training engineers. The company spends up to R3 million per annum on bursaries.

“We are committed to developing skills among – especially the African youth – to create jobs and contribute towards sustainable development in the continent.”

Another feather in Khato Civils’ cap is its corporate social investment programme – which has seen the company building roads, schools, clinics, community halls, houses and even police stations in different communities.

These include building a new R5 million-worth wing at the previously dilapidated Kwamendo Police Station  Mchinji district– besides the new wing the company also donated furniture, five motorcycles and a Ford Ranger for the police officers.

Also in Malawi Khato Civils has spent another R5 million renovating an old clinic and building houses for the medical staff. Another major project that the company has embarked on in Malawi involves rebuilding an old village where Phiri owns a farm. The project involved building new houses with electricity and running water for 50 families – and opening a borehole for the villagers have water for their agricultural activities.

“I rebuild the village because it is inhuman to live on an island of wealth surrounded by a sea of poverty”, explains Phiri.

The Khato Civils’ supremo says besides it being a legislative requirement – his company’s corporate social investment programme is driven by the spirit of “Ubuntu” and a commitment to empowering communities wherein it operates.

“Growing up in a village in Malawi I have seen poverty but also learned about the value of sharing. I got to understood that communities share the little that they have to benefit everyone including the less fortunate. I now have the means to contribute to the development of communities by identifying what kind of resources are needed and provide those resources. I grew up in poverty and know what it means not to have things to needs to survive,” adds Phiri.

Meanwhile, communities in South Africa have also benefited from Khato Civils’ generosity including building houses for the indigent, equipment for schools, improving sporting facilities and supporting projects by community-based organisation.

Phiri points out that to ensure sustainability in some of its CSI projects his company has offered employment to some of the struggling beneficiaries.

One such beneficiary is 51 year-old Joyce Ditshego who is now employed as a cleaner at the company’s headquarters in Midrand. Ditshego’s father is the late former Umkhonto we Sizwe operative Johannes Ditshego – who used his home in Pitsane next to the Botswana border as conduit to smuggle young activities from Alexandra and then Kwandebele into Botswana for training as MK cadres.

As the breadwinner Ditshego’s death left his family indigent. Phiri was then approached by the now Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha for assistance. A six-roomed house was built for the Ditshego family in Pitsane but upon realising that the family did not have any sustainable source of income – Phiri offered Joyce a job – so she can support her mother and her siblings.

The impact of this gesture can be read from Joyce’s response. She only has praise for “Ntate Phiri.”

“He has changed my life – because of him I can now take care of my family.”

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