The Changing Project Management Landscape


Project Management in Southern Africa:

Approaches, Experience, Trends


By Prof Les Labuschagne

Pretoria, South Africa


Modern Project Management (PM) as a discipline and practice has been constantly evolving over the last seventy years.  As the needs of industry changed, so did PM.  Over time, standards and best practices emerged that represented consensus among professionals, practitioners, and other stakeholders.  What influences the degree of success and the way these standards and best practices are applied is context.

In the global context, South Africa (SA) has a complex history leading to where it is today. In recent years, Africa and South Africa have become the focus of growth and expansion strategies for several multinational organizations.  South Africa remains one of the largest economies in Africa, with high levels of industrialization due to technological advancements and a diversified economy.  Within this context, PM has become entrenched in many organizations, leading to the establishment of various professional societies dating back as far as the 1980s.

Various recent global and national events have meant that the context for PM in South Africa is changing.  This article highlights some trends, their impact, and future implications that may affect the SA PM community.


There is little doubt that the future will become a more complex place and trying to predict it will be almost impossible.  This, however, does not justify ignoring the current realities and where they could potentially lead.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

The pandemic has changed the life of every person in the world.  Apart from this, it has also impacted the global economy and, by default, the SA economy.  Some major economic impacts since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 are:

  • Increased levels of unemployment lead to an increased demand for social grants and funding and decreased spending
  • Closure of businesses leading to the slowing down of economic growth
  • Downsizing of businesses by moving from a growth strategy to a survival strategy
  • Decreased tourism and hospitality due to travel restrictions
  • Decreased import and export due to cross-border restrictions

The direct consequence of the above was that many organizations canceled or paused projects which lead to many project managers becoming inactive.  What was intended to be a short-term solution has now become a medium- to long-term strategy.

As the various waves of the pandemic continue to influence lock-down regulations, surviving organizations are starting to unpause or initiate projects again.  This is, however, at a much smaller scale than pre-pandemic.

Corruption and poor governance

In early January 2022, the first of three reports from the State Capture Inquiry was released. The 874-page Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture Report: Part 1 states how the country was systematically looted through a coordinated series of actions over ten years during the tenure of the previous president of the country.  In the report, 1,438 individuals and institutions have been implicated based on 1.7 million pages of evidence.  Unfortunately, many of the individuals and institutions implicated continue unabated as the matter is being dealt with through the legal system.  In 2021, several allegations were made in the media of political interference in the judicial system in an attempt to protect several high-ranking officials.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles about project management in Southern Africa is by leaders of Project Management South Africa (PMSA) and other stakeholders, including educators, experts and practicing professionals. It is intended to share their experience and knowledge that might be useful for professionals and organizations in other African countries and elsewhere in the world.

How to cite this article: Labuschagne, L. (2022). The Changing Project Management Landscape, Project Management in Southern Africa: Approaches, Experience, Trends, Series article1. PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/pmwj114-Feb2022-Labuschagne-the-changing-landscape-pm-in-southern-africa-pmsa-series.pdf

About the Author

Les Labuschagne

Pretoria, South Africa



Les Labuschagne is a Professor and the Executive Director: Research, Innovation & Commercialization at the University of South Africa (Unisa). His professional activities extend beyond Unisa. He served Project Management South Africa (PMSA) as the VP: Projects on the National Executive Committee from 2002 to 2004 before being elected as national president from 2004 to 2006.  At the end of his term he was invited to join the board as a non-executive director where he served for ten years between 2006 and 2016.  He was awarded life-long Professional Membership status for his service and was invited back onto the board as a non-executive director in 2021 to serve for another five-year term. He further serves as an Honorary International Academic Advisor for the PM World Journal.

Les can be contacted at les.labuschagne@gmail.com