This month I would like to pay tribute to the more than 200 men and women who were sufficiently concerned about the worrying state of manufacturing – and, within it, the state of the metals and engineering sector – in South African and the SADC region that they registered as paying delegates to attend the Southern Metals and Engineering Indaba. By heeding the call to attend the conference, these men and women showed that they know and accept that they have a responsibility to make themselves heard and that they cannot stand by and watch as our sector continues to decline.
It is no secret at all that the South African economy is in serious trouble. In recent years we have witnessed lack-lustre growth and, at the time of writing, our sovereign credit rating is just a notch above junk status. Instead of creating jobs, our economy has been bleeding jobs.
The 5,6% growth attained in 2007 was the highest achieved in South Africa since 1990, and the 3,4% growth registered in 2011 was the highest attained under the Zuma presidency. Since then, the country has struggled to record a growth rate higher than 2%, at a time when South Africa desperately needed more jobs to be created and when the current Government itself had promised a million jobs in its first term.
Contrary to some of the promises made by the ANC in its election manifesto in 2009, more people are unemployment now in the manufacturing sector than was the case then. In 2009, 1 782 163 people were employed in manufacturing, and that number stood at 1 349 262 in 2014. In the metals and engineering sector, 402 625 people were employed in 2009, and that number stood at 394 647 at the end of last year. That means that a massive 432 901 jobs in the manufacturing sector and 7 978 jobs in the metals and engineering sector were lost in President Zuma’s first term in office. Regrettably, the bleeding continues as more companies downsize this year or face the prospects of going out of business altogether.
Among the options available to us, disengaging is simply not one of them. However difficult and frustrating it may be at times to get the Government of the day to take the business community and its concerns seriously, we have no choice but to continue to reach out to it. As business leaders, we have to create opportunities and platforms for us to engage not only among ourselves, but, more importantly, also with the Government and our labour partners. We need to continue to endeavour to ensure that, at the very least, the Government has a shared understanding of the challenges that face us, because it is only when that shared understanding exists that we would stand a chance of getting them to change course when it comes to some of their policies that are deleterious to the economy.
By all accounts, the inaugural Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba was a great success and the quality of discussions was very high. Over the next few months we will work hard to ensure that delegates and government representatives from the Southern African Development Community also attend the Indaba next year and beyond. To this end, we would welcome the assistance of those among our readers who have business and government contacts in Southern Africa to encourage them to attend the conference next year. They will be able to access details on the MEIndaba 2016 on www.meindaba.co.za.
Finally, I would like to congratulate all the companies that won in the respective categories of the inaugural SEIFSA Awards for Excellence on 28 May. In particular, my congratulations go to Hazleton Pump International for winning the Most Innovative Company and the Customer Service of the Year Awards, and to Scaw Metals Group for winning the Health and Safety Award and the Artisan of the Year Award respectively. Power transmission specialist Voith Turbo won the Best Corporate Social Responsibility Award of the Year, while Africa Steel Holdings and ABB won the Most Transformed Company of the Year Awards for companies employing fewer than 100 employees and those employing more than 100 employees respectively.
Both the Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba and the SEIFSA Awards for Excellence are industry initiatives open to all companies within the sector, and not only those that are members of Associations affiliated to SEIFSA.
My congratulations also go to the following winners of the SEIFSA CEO’s Awards:
- Arthur Stuart (Tubby) Boynton-Lee for Lifetime Leadership in the Metals and Engineering Sector;
- Melco Conveyor Equipment for being the company that made the most extensive use of SEIFSA’s products and services in 2014;
- The Constructional Engineering Association of South Africa for being the most active Association in various SEIFSA-organised activities;
- And Kgaogelo James Sello for being the Top Artisan Student for 2014.
Unfortunately, there were no entrants for the Environmental Stewardship Award. We look forward to receiving entries in this category of the SEIFSA Awards for Excellence, too, next year.
Do you believe that your company embraces excellence and has areas in which it stands head and shoulders above its peers? If so, please enter the SEIFSA Awards for Excellence for 2016. Entry forms can be accessed on www.seifsaawards.co.za. The awards are chaired and adjudicated by an independent panel of experts, with the relevant SEIFSA subject-matter expert being merely a member of a panel. They are, therefore, a powerful endorsement by your business peers and competitors.