Addressing delegates attending the 2nd Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba currently taking place at the IDC Conference Centre, Minister Zulu said the

Government recognised the critical role that SMMEs play in employment creation as well as contribution towards the country’s gross domestic product. She said the Government also recognised the important role that small businesses play in the manufacturing sector in general and the metals and engineering sector in particular.

“We understand the crucial role that the manufacturing sector contributes to the economy; we understand that the majority of companies within the sector are small companies, and we also understand the challenges currently facing the sector in general and small businesses within the sector in particular.

“It is against this backdrop that we are currently involved in the setting up of a major fund to support small businesses and I have no doubt that some of your small business suppliers do need this fund because, despite the fact that you do your best to support them in line with the requirements of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, you also want to see them operate as independents and become tomorrow’s major players in industry. The Gazelles I am referring to are a feeder for the Black Industrialists programme managed by the Dti,” the Minister said. 

She added that incubation support is crucial in the metals and engineering sector, adding that, through SEDA, her Ministry had established a number of successful incubators throughout the country.

“We have partnered with Columbus Steel in Middleburg to establish the Middleburg stainless steel incubator (MSI), which focuses on the manufacturing of various stainless steel products. In Springs, we have partnered with Zincor and Impala and have focussed on the beneficiation of zinc and copper metals.”

She said that in Richards’s Bay her Ministry has partnered with BHP Billiton in the establishment of the Downstream Aluminium Centre of Technology, which focusses on downstream cast aluminium beneficiation.

The Minister said she was delighted to learn that SEIFSA launched a small business hub in May 2015, which focusses on helping smaller businesses with compliance, enterprise and supplier development training, amongst other things.

This, she said, creates a potential for a relationship between the department and its agencies, SEDA, SEFA with SEIFSA.

“I strongly suggest that we pursue this. The SMMEs’ clients in the hub could have access to SEFA funding to grow their businesses and non-financial support through SEDA, as well as equipment and grant funding from the Black Business Supplier Development Fund within the Department,” the Minister said.

The Minister also said that the Government could not create 11 million jobs by 2030 without the contribution of the metals and engineering sector.

“This is a task that the Government just cannot do alone. I am of the view, therefore, that the steel, engineering and manufacturing sectors are some of the most important sectors to contribute in creating these jobs because the metals and engineering sector contributes roughly 28-30% of manufacturing and 6% to total GDP. In South Africa, roughly 10 000 companies are directly involved in this sector, contributing about 390 000 jobs. This sector is an important components supplier into mining, construction and the automotive sector.

In conclusion, the Minister said she would like to move beyond narrative to implementation and action.

“And I would like to make this sector a good example of how the Government works together with the private sector in the interest of all of South Africa in the creation of jobs and entrepreneurs,” she said.