Building  Owners  and  Managers  Association  International

Building Owners and Managers Association International

SAPOA Conference Highlights the Importance of Technology, Human Capital Challenges

​By BOMA International President Henry Chamberlain, APR, CAE

BOMA International Chair Ray Mackey and I recently attended the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) Conference in Capetown and presented "Is this a great recession or will the recession make us great?" The SAPOA conference was a huge success and provided a great venue for networking and education. Their format of multiple general sessions worked well and provided an opportunity to hear some great high–powered speakers.

South Africa’s GDP growth is projected at 12 percent or so this year here as the recovery begins, but as an emerging marketplace the number is a bit deceiving. There are some opportunistic plays in the market, but unemployment is very high at 25 percent and the economy is just getting by. They are seeing some investment from China, and have been invited to join BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) but see themselves as a much smaller economy. Similar to the situation in the U.S., they see the recovery taking hold in the second half of next year. We were struck by the fact that although we are worlds apart from South Africa, our issues and opportunities seem so very similar.  Attracting young talent and skilled labor is just one of the challenges we both face, although I would venture to say the average age of their attendees is at least 10 years younger than our crowd.  They have a very diverse crowd including bankers, property owners, developers, fund managers, architects, property managers, consultants and contractors. 

Our hosts SAPOA President Daniel Ogbu, President-Elect Kevin Roman and Chief Staff Executive Neil Gopol were terrific and will be joining us in June at BOMA's annual conference. The program was centered around multiple general sessions each day featuring programs on business and the economy, real estate specific presentations, including one on retail by Robert Grossman of Deloitte, leveraging technology and politics. Incoming President Kevin Roman was sworn in and laid out his priorities: collaborating with other groups including BOMA, becoming more effective federal advocates and educating and training staff. They are looking at creating their own advocacy "legal defense fund" patterned after our Industry Defense Fund.

One presentation featured The Shift Age futurist author David Houle. He sees three major forces affecting us: the flow to everything being global, the power of every individual to make a difference by being connected by technology and the acceleration of connectedness at all levels. For real estate, he sees this as a great time of change as connectedness is creating a distributed workplace merging commercial, retail and residential into one. He also sees high energy costs driving sustainability as he believes energy costs will remain above $100 per barrel and range up to $150.

The "Smart Cities" presentation featured IBM's Guru Banavar and Monhla Hlahla of the Airports Company of South Africa. Guru sees future success based on people's ability to access information and effective data integration. From his perspective, in the future virtually all things, processes and ways of working will be intelligent. Our world will be totally interconnected as it becomes more and more instrumented with sensors and smart devices. Monhla talked about future cities built around airports.

This trip really highlighted to us the fact that with technology and improved transportation, this world is really getting smaller and that we do truly operate in a global economy.  Human talent and capital both move freely across national boundaries to seek the highest returns.  South Africa is a beautiful country we hope you get to visit and experience.