Amid ageing water infrastructure, the South African Valve and Actuator Manufacturers Association (Savama) laments the substantially cheaper and poor-quality Chinese valves and associated products that find their way onto the local market.
“In the current market, we find that price supersedes quality. With China expanding its footprint into Africa. . . end-users are exploring Chinese options because of the cheaper prices,” says Savama chairperson Pam du Plessis.
The high volume of these imported products resulted in National Treasury issuing a Practice Instruction Note in terms of Regulation 8(3) of the Preferential Procurement Regulation of 2017, issued in terms of Section 5 of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act 2000 for the designation of pumps, medium-voltage motors and associated accessories, which took effect from January 10.
This places an obligation on State-owned enterprises and municipalities to buy designated pumps and medium-voltage motors from local manufacturers.
Du Plessis says local manufacturers are competitive internationally in terms of quality and pricing, “as long as you are comparing apples with apples”.
Savama is a member of the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa), with 19 company members, which account for about 80% of valves and actuators manufactured or assembled in South Africa.
“Many of the smaller companies in the association have been established by local entrepreneurs who have identified a gap and provided solutions for niche markets, particularly in mining applications. Their products have, in some cases, competed well in global markets as a result.”
Du Plessis notes that South African manufacturers are credible suppliers of valves meeting international specifications – including the supply of spares and maintenance services in compliance with ISO 9001/2 quality systems – and the needs of various industries.
There are a vast amount of skills and resources available in South Africa, making manufacturers more than equipped to contend with capacity, with foundries plentiful, along with machine shops, she adds.
“The issue is that South Africa has lost a certain degree of hope in competing with international manufacturers, owing to high and rising utility charges and labour costs, as well as labour unrest, which, in turn, results in downtime.”
Du Plessis points out that the association has established several committees and they are consistently engaging with the Department of Trade and Industry and the South African Bureau of Standards to address some of the challenges that local manufacturers face such as import duties, product quality and compliance issues.
Skills and Training
Savama offers online training courses, such as Introduction to Valves, Working with Valves and Control Valves. “Seifsa skills centres offer training that encompasses apprenticeships, learnerships, skills development programmes, short courses, trade proficiency assessment services and trade testing and the continuous upskilling of artisans.”
Du Plessis says the courses have been designed for the valve industry but are also available for private individuals who would like to learn about valves. “A number of companies within the association and sector offer these courses to their staff, interns and mentees.”