Feb 03, 2012
Is South African industry globally competitive?Back
Agriculture|Africa|Defence|Environment|Industrial|Africa|South Africa|While Building|Automotive|Building|Chemicals Industry|Duty Applications|Power|Far East
© Reuse this
One lasting impression is that South African industry is tied into an enormous battle to be globally competitive. This view appears to be quite representative across a broad section of industries.
Severe challenges posed by imports, primarily (but not exclusively) from the Far East, are a reality. Our market is just another target market for companies producing enormous volumes and the extent of government subsidisation and support in some of these countries poses a real threat to local industry.
Against this backdrop, one would expect more frequent and more focused applica- tions for protection in the form of antidumping and countervailing duties. Yet many industries are just too fragmented to orchestrate a focused approach when applying for protection. At least, remedies are available to deal with dumped or subsidised imports and better communi- cation within industries can go a long way to ensuring that these remedies are properly exploited.
Of greater concern is the real possibility that our industries are just not competitive, even in a fair trade environment.
Our history entails a legacy of protection and a focus on being self-sufficient, stemming from the sanctions era. While we developed world-class technologies in areas ranging from defence to the chemicals industry and agriculture, very few of our major inventions and technological advances made it into the global arena in a big way.
In addition, our primary industries con- sist of only a handful of players established in an era where ‘sanction busting’ was the way to get into global markets. Many of these cornerstone industries are the ones most often applying for additional protection against imports.
Our most commonly recognised big indus- try that finds itself integrated into global supply chains is the automotive industry and this seems to be possible mainly as a result of substantial government support. While this may sound rather damning, it provides enormous insight. Most governments around the world support big industry in one way or another. Should our government not have more industry-focused programmes at the scale of the automotive industry programme?
With an enormous need for job creation, the current focus on support for small, medium-size and microenterprises (SMME) is both commendable and necessary. SMMEs are, however, exposed to global trends and unfair trade practices, with limited ability to withstand the rigours of the international market. While building an economy primarily on SMMEs may assist in job creation and provide greater social stability, it does little to integrate our industries into global supply chains, where production takes place with the benefit of real economies of scale.
To develop a globally competitive export industry, a substantial local market is often required. Even with the size of our population, our spending power on more than the most basic items is limited. For many industries, the benefit of having a significant local industry as a springboard just does not exist.
The common strategy of always seeing Africa as a primary market to develop that springboard into the global market is also flawed as most African markets are already importing at globally competitive prices, and obtaining market penetration is a lot more difficult than originally thought.
It should be clear that the stumbling blocks to South Africa becoming a global player are not only a lack of skills and perceived high electricity costs – the truth is we are behind the curve on global industrial development and challenges like skills shortages and a volatile currency are just secondary hurdles.
There appears to be only one answer – government and industry need to replicate what has been achieved in the automotive sector for other key industrial sectors, and this needs to be done with the same urgency and in parallel with the development of SMMEs.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Pieter du Plessis & Donald Mackay News
Recent Research Reports
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
This Week's Magazine
The international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope – which is to be jointly hosted by South Africa and Australia with, later, outstations in other countries – may not yet exist, but international scientific working groups are already deciding what...
A free Web-based solar power plant capacity-planning tool offers project planners and developers, as well as governments, a means to assess the solar energy potential of thin-film solar PV power over an area of land. The tool was developed by thin-film solar...
As yet, no specific methodology, timeline or costs have been finalised to remedy the water ingress, excessive to contractual specifications, into the Gautrain tunnel between emergency shaft two (E2) and Park Station, says Bombela Concession Company technical and...
The “seriously disruptive” electricity outages in South Africa have cost packaging group Astrapak more than R2-million in “irrecoverable downtime costs”, the company said on Monday, adding that the power cuts were negating some of the benefit of energy saving...
Bakkies and more affordable cars dominated South Africa’s new vehicle market in 2014. Unaudited data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shows that South Africa’s most popular vehicle in 2014 was the Toyota Hilux, selling 37 562 units.
Next ArticleTrade trends and forecasts