In the face of punitive duties that effectively closed European markets to the company, it has achieved noteworthy results in the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and, recently, in Nigeria. Until 1998, African Products was an exporter of surplus capacity – exporting what it could, when it could. In that year the decision was made that up to 30% of production should be committed to the export market.
Since then the company has expanded its markets in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore to Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand and, more recently, into Nigeria in head-on competition with European producers. The company's export turnover last year was R168-million.
The awards were divided into four categories, including export services and small, medium and large manufacturing, and is run to recognise excellence and promote an export-orientation in the Gauteng business community. Ford Motor Company won the services category award for its promotion of locally-manufactured auto components to the worldwide Ford group.
The firm is the number-one exporter of catalytic converters from South Africa, supplying 90% of Ford Europe's requirements. New initiatives are under way to target other markets, notably Japan and North America.
Klamflex Pipe Couplings was the winner in the small-manufacturing category on the basis of the significant challenges it overcame in meeting European standards for the piping of drinking water, wastewater, and effluent. It took the company, together with its local rubber-seals supplier, three years of design re-engineering to secure UK accreditation. During that time the company also realised that design changes were necessary to compete successfully in Europe – and reengineered its product range, bringing about significant reductions in costs. The last two years have seen the company experience exponential growth in export turnover.
The winner of the medium-manufacturing category was Container World. The company converts second-hand marine containers into refrigerated and customised containers used for accommodation, banks, bakeries and clinics.
The export market, particularly into Africa, has increasingly become a major focus. The firm is the preferred supplier of containerised ice-making machines for Coca-Cola in Southern Africa, and has been awarded contracts for the supply of complete mobile construction camps in Cameroon and in Mozambique. Speaking at the awards ceremony, JCCI CEO Marius de Jager said that the twelve finalists are making a substantial contribution to the province's job creation and tax generation that enables government to provide infrastructure and services.