By Kaizer M. Nyatsumba, Chief Executive Officer, SEIFSA

Date: Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Thank you very much, Programme Director, for that introduction.

Greetings, Ladies and Gentlemen – and welcome to the launch of the Empowered Engineering & Manufacturing Initiative, brought to you by Smart Procurement World in Partnership with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA). It is so good to see so many of you attending this important event, and I am pleased to acknowledge each one of you, from those representing different arms of government, through to industry players and other stakeholders. I am glad you could make it.

When we were approached by Smart Procurement World to be an anchor partner for the Empowered Engineering & Manufacturing Initiative, we agreed readily not only because we are the authoritative body representing employers in the sectors covered by this conference, but, more importantly, because we share its vision and philosophy. The Federation that I represent is 74 years old this year, and it is an enthusiastic supporter of business transformation in general and of small business as significant players in our economy and as job creators.

Our philosophy is simple: we believe fervently that our beautiful country, South Africa, will not realize its full potential unless all relevant stakeholders – but especially the democratically-elected Government, business and labour – work together cooperatively and collaboratively as partners. We believe very firmly that all of us need to work much, much closely together than we have done hitherto if South Africa is to prosper economically and reclaim its place as the biggest economy on this continent.

As you may know, SEIFSA represents all sizes of companies in the metals and engineering sector, ranging from the largest, listed multi-nationals through to the smallest which employ no more than a handful of individuals. Only yesterday, a company that employs four people took membership of one of our member Associations and became part of SEIFSA. In fact, the vast majority of the companies that are members of our affiliated Associations are small in size: at least 66% of them employ no more than 50 people.

Therefore, partnering with Smart Procurement World on the Empowered Engineering & Manufacturing Initiative was the most logical thing for us to do. The purpose of this Initiative is very much consistent with that of our Small Business Hub, which renders expert services to SMMEs at a more discounted fee than normal and offers a service to large companies that sees us project managing their Enterprise and Supplier Development Programmes for them for a fee so that they can improve their Broad-Based BEE scores.

I am pleased to see that many of our member companies are present here today, including on the programme. We stand ready to partner with them – and all of you – in our efforts to encourage more established, big business to embrace and support smaller enterprises. We also encourage them not only to embrace transformation, but also to champion it in all its forms, including through developing and mentoring SMMEs and giving them greater access to their various domestic and international supply chains.

As you may recall, former US President John F Kennedy once said: “For of those to whom much is given, much is required”, paraphrasing, of course, Luke 12:48, which was his inspiration and reads as follows: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”

Engineering and Manufacturing are very important parts of the economy of any advanced country. No country that is lagging behind in either can ever be said to be developed. Therefore, it is crucially important that South Africa continues to make strides in Engineering and that it performs much better in Manufacturing than it is doing at the moment. For that to happen, the Government would have to do much more to create a climate conducive to domestic and foreign direct investment in the country and, thus emboldened, local companies would have to make the necessary investments in cutting-edge technology as well as in research and development.

Unfortunately, manufacturing in South Africa has been under considerable pressure for many years now. Its contribution to the GDP has declined from around 20% over the past three decades to 13% – and it looks set to continue to decline. This is most regrettable, especially when one considers manufacturing’s enormous job creation potential and its positive contribution to the balance of payments as a foreign exchange earner.

At the Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba in Sandton last week, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel catalogued various Government initiatives to support manufacturing in general and the metals and engineering sector in particular. These include such commendable interventions like the Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme and designation of locally-manufactured products.

Like many others, we welcome these Government interventions, but we believe that more still needs to be done. We also contend that more should be done to ensure that, once certain products have been designated, effective monitoring of compliance by all Government departments and State-owned companies takes place, with drastic punitive measures taken against those who fail to comply.

Similarly, we believe that everything possible should be done to end this terrible practice by some Chinese companies investing in or winning local tenders bringing not only employees from China, but also the materials used for those capital projects.

As you know, Ladies and Gentlemen, we read with monotonous regularity each day about various scandals and forms of corruption wrecking our beautiful country. Given that unfortunate reality, it is tempting – if not easy – for some among us to throw our hands in the air and despair. I would like to suggest that we are not as powerless as some politicians may believe us to be. As individual men and women, as business and labour leaders and as organized business, we are far more powerful than we sometimes believe ourselves to be.

That is why, as I said when we signed the 2017-2020 Wage Agreement in the metals and engineering sector on 23 August, we at SEIFSA recommit ourselves to working closely with our labour partners to lobby the Government for policies that will enable business to thrive in order to create jobs and to make the country an attractive investment destination.

Like everybody else, we are deeply troubled by the way in which our beautiful country is currently misgoverned and by the corruption which has become so endemic. We support calls for President Jacob Zuma to move swiftly to establish a commission of enquiry into the rampant State capture allegations, and we call on everybody in Government to offer ethical leadership and to ensure greater policy coordination within their ranks in order to eliminate the embarrassing situation which often sees Cabinet Ministers publicly championing often contradictory, sometimes market unfriendly policies.

In our humble view, South Africa desperately needs much better leadership from our political leaders than it is receiving at the moment, and a strong partnership involving the Government, business and labour if it is to realize its full potential. We at SEIFSA stand ready to play our part, however, small.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you well with your Empowered Engineering & Manufacturing Initiative conference. I would like to encourage you to engage robustly with one another in order to ensure that this day is put to good use.

Thank you very much.