Speaking at the Inaugural Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba held at Emperors Palace in Ekurhuleni this morning, Mr Hill-Lewis said that policy uncertainty, confusing trade and investment policies in addition to unstable industrial relations and the power crisis hampered the growth of the South African economy in general and the manufacturing sector in particular.
“There is a disconnect between the Government’s stated economic policies and actions of its Departments. It is very important that the Government’s trade and investment policies are clear if the ‘long dark night’ currently engulfing the Southern African manufacturing
sector is to be turned around and if the South African economy is to prosper,” Mr Hill-Lewis said.
Speaking on the same panel discussion, Department of Trade and Industry Deputy Director-General Garth Strachan said the Government was committed to working in collaboration with business and labour to turn South Africa’s economic tide around.
“There is no question that the manufacturing sector is of critical importance to the economy. Steel, for instance, plays a significant role in other sectors such as the automotive industry. It is against this backdrop that the Government has put in place several initiatives to help the manufacturing sector compete,” Mr Strachan said.
Mr Strachan said that the Government had deployed incentives in the steel sector and is continuing to rescue steel producers who are in distress, in addition to ensuring that South African producers are able to export their products to foreign markets.
“We remain committed to working with business to stimulate the economy and to ensure that the creation of employment happens,” said Mr Strachan.
He also emphasized the importance of the new growth structure and broadening the base of economic participation to grow the South African economy.
Speaking on a different panel, University of Cape Town’s Professor Haroon Bhorat said in order for the new growth path to come to realization, the Government needed to rethink its industrial policy by, for instance, funding targeted sectors which are dedicated to employment creation.
“We also need to ensure that public sector procurement focuses on the small business sector in order to grow South Africa’s informal sector. The informal sector plays a very crucial role in the development of any developing country’s economy,” Professor Bhorat said.
He also emphasized the importance of education and human capital development.
“If we don’t improve the schooling system of South Africa, the new growth path will not be realized and we will remain an unequal society.” Business Leadership South Africa Chairman Bobby Godsell said in order for the manufacturing sector to come out of the doldrums, it was of paramount importance that South African producers adapted to changing economic environments and globalization.
“Local producers need to gear themselves to be able to compete on a global playing ground if the manufacturing sector is to survive and thrive,” Mr Godsell said.
Sphere Holdings Chairman Jabu Mabuza said it was of pivotal importance that the Government supported black businesses and real transformation.
NDP Commissioner and International Women’s Forum South Africa President Dr Vuyokazi Mahlathi emphasized the importance of the Government and business working in collaboration in the interest of the South African economy.
“South Africa needs a strong leadership drive across the board. The time for pointing fingers is gone; we need active citizenry and active participation from all stakeholders if South Africa’s economic tide is to turn,” Dr Mahlathi said.