Proudly South African
South Africa needs more jobs and the motor industry has the opportunity to be a key role player by expanding its local content.
With the unacceptably high unemployment rate in South Africa, it has become increasingly necessary to create more jobs. This message was emphasised by the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, when commenting on the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Convention held in Durban recently.
Gordhan says that as a country we need to become more internationally competitive and create a win-win business situation that will benefit all the BRICS partners. With the Chinese economy being 22 times bigger than our own, I agree with the minister that, if we want a fair trade balance in the BRICS Agreement, we have to produce more locally-made goods.
These comments were reinforced by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davis, at the launch of the 5th version of the Industrial Policy Action Plan.
Davis says that we have to defend our domestic market and become less reliant on exports. He encourages South African businesses to grow and says that they will be supported and assisted in their efforts. He adds that by creating more jobs we will improve the living standards of all South Africans.
But are we, as the motor industry, doing our part to expand the local content in the vehicles that we build in South Africa and so create more jobs?
In my opinion, a few of the vehicle manufacturers are doing extremely well by manufacturing world-class vehicles for export. It is encouraging to see that in March 2013 we increased our vehicle export sales by 18,2 percent, when compared to March 2012.
But there must be opportunities to expand the local content of the components that are fitted to our vehicles. History has proved that we have the skills and know-how to produce locally manufactured components for the motor industry. Our ability was well proven during the years that the country was under severe sanctions.
We need to follow the good example set by a few vehicle component manufacturers who are forging ahead, expanding their facilities and creating jobs in South Africa.
One such example is East London-based Johnson Controls. It has expanded its investment in South Africa, which in turn will create an estimated 200 jobs. Johnson Controls has been in South Africa since 1994, manufacturing and supplying component parts to Mercedes-Benz for its C-class model. The company has also made the decision to use local people in its factory and is sending its workers to its operation in Germany to gain the skills required to produce world-class vehicle components.
To protect our market from being flooded with cheap imported vehicles and vehicle components, and to obtain a fair trade balance with our new trading partners, I have no doubt in my mind
that we have to find more ways to increase our local content and grow our export sales.
One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 49 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel, 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.