The SAISC (South African Institute of Steel Construction), hosted its SAISC Steel Awards 2023 last week, and we include below the event opening remarks by SAISC CEO Amanuel Gebremeskel.

Steel Awards 2023 overall winner members of the project team with Amanuel Gebremeskel, CEO of the SAISC (3rd from the left) and project judge Spencer Erling. Image supplied by SAISC

Steel Awards 2023 overall winner members of the project team with Amanuel Gebremeskel, CEO of the SAISC (3rd from the left) and project judge Spencer Erling. Image supplied by SAISC

I wish to thank our steel industry warriors, friends and family for joining us for the 2023 Game of Steel Awards!

For those of you who have not diligently watched each episode of the Game of Thrones – at least twice each – the long series covers a fictitious and fractured world where battles ensue between various powers for the Iron throne. At the same time, the competing claimants also struggle to respond to an other-worldly force that threatens to destroy them all.

As Stephen King puts it ‘fiction is the truth inside the lie’. Thus, it is only fitting that we have chosen the Game of Thrones as our theme for the year. It seems our world is emulating the show in many ways. We live in a highly contested space where the contesting powers appear unable to collectively face global challenges that threaten us all. But we also chose this work of art because it explicitly celebrates the most important technology of our era – Steel – the backbone of real and fictitious worlds alike.

As we hear news of horrible wars, earthquakes, competition for resources, scarce energy, etc… We must remember that we are the people who figure out how to build the steel structures that can withstand blasts, resist earthquakes, dig out and process the resources of the earth and build power plants. We are literally in the business of creating the Iron Throne.

Tonight, you will see the capability of our industry to do this work with incredible ingenuity. The geographic and technical reach of the projects is incredible. We have projects that have literally broken global records while others have carved out spaces of peaceful worship in war-torn areas. One has even delivered power where there are no roads and cranes. I can proudly say that we have much to celebrate tonight.

There is little question that we punch well above our weight. This was obvious when Nicolette and I went to Canada for the biennial International Steel Contractors Group (ISCG) meeting last month. The challenges that our industry and Institute face are significantly more complicated than any of our global contemporaries. Our resources to overcome those challenges are a fraction of what they have available to them. However, it is not an exaggeration to say that our colleagues are mighty impressed with what our Institute, your companies and our local universities have achieved.

Our colleagues around the world currently employ the brilliant graduates of our detailing school. Thanks for that effort, Spencer. Engineers and managers trained at our universities and developed by your companies are running their largest projects – including the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America – currently under construction. In that case, the engineer has fortunately returned to South Africa to help with the construction of the Msikaba Bridge – the longest such bridge in Africa. We have a professor, Alex Elvin, amongst us here who trained the academic who founded the one and only Institute-funded fire research centre in Africa at Stellenbosch – Richard Walls. One of Alex’s other students, Michael Harrison right here in Joburg, is the global head of structural engineering for engineering powerhouse, Hatch.

For all that and for making tonight possible I wish to thank our main sponsor UNICA – thank you Mohammed – and all our category sponsors. This evening would not be possible without your gracious support. I also wish to thank the project nominators who worked for endless hours to convert these beautiful projects into reality. Our judges have donated their valuable time without any compensation to sift through, review, interview and visit the projects that you will see tonight to finally arrive at very difficult decisions on which projects deserve special recognition. We are forever indebted to you! Our wonderful violinist, events co-ordinator – Unlimited – and our celebrated MC require special thanks for making sure that we have a beautiful and entertaining gala. I would like to extend a special thank you to Kendal and her team at KHC, Carl and his team at Progression, and Richard for the video recordings and production.

And last but not least I’m very proud of the gruelling work done by my office mates Ruby, Elrika, Debbie and Thulile, with Denises’s exceptional creativity and leadership. I’m not surprised that so many have tried to poach them from us over the years. Thank you for your commitment, loyalty and hard work ladies… you’re the best!

Now please sit back, relax and let’s forge ahead without further ado.