The fourth African Chemicals Imbizo, to be held in Durban from October 24 to 25, is expected to be the largest one in its four-year history.
Starting as a modest concept of meetings between members of the Durban Chemicals Cluster (DCC) – a public–private partnership between eThekwini municipality and the local chemicals manufacturing association – and six buyers from across Africa, the Imbizo will now boast upwards of 350 delegates, 60 exhibitors, 20 buyers and in excess of 200 set business meetings.
The African Chemicals Imbizo forms part of the 47-member DCC’s drive to promote investment and develop the chemicals sector in South Africa.
What started as a small, but successful buyer-trade platform in 2014 to promote exports and trade into Africa has grown to incorporate a conference tackling critical industry-driven topics, an exhibition and study tours of the Durban manufacturing sector, with speakers, local manufacturers and delegates from all over South Africa convening to meet with trade-seeking African companies ready to invest in South Africa, says DCC project manager Meghan King.
With over 20 sponsored trade partners from eight African countries, including Ghana – for the first time – Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mauritius, she expects this year’s African Chemicals Imbizo to be an even bigger success in strengthening interregional trade.
The 2018 edition serves as an opportunity to harness the untapped potential of the continent’s rapid gross domestic product (GDP) growth, with significant room to grow the value of chemical exports from KwaZulu-Natal, and the rest of South Africa, to the larger economies of sub-Saharan Africa.
While Africa’s demand for chemicals grows, the continent is not trading sufficiently with itself and is sourcing product from Asia, for example, she says.
A rise in imports and consequent negative trade balance indicates that local producers are not capitalising on the expected growth and development in the sub-Saharan African market.
This deficit can be filled by local producers, which boast healthy growth and diversification in the domestic sale of chemicals, she asserts.
“We are not reaping the benefits of Africa’s own growth and opportunities, and even though South Africa has a strong chemicals sector, we are not exporting to Africa the way we should,” King tells Engineering News, highlighting the importance of the African Chemicals Imbizo as a platform to identify where the future growth lies for South African chemicals manufacturers.
Overall, the South African chemicals industry contributes 5% to the country’s GDP, with the local petrochemicals sector contributing some 55% to the sector.
The chemicals sector is the second largest local manufacturing sector in Durban in terms of untapped export potential at R19.18-billion, with KwaZulu-Natal a leader in the production of chemicals and plastics.
The bulk of the province’s chemicals output is produced within the eThekwini municipality.
In 2015, 21%, or R22.1-billion, of the South African gross value add from the chemicals manufacturing industry came from KwaZulu-Natal.
The province’s chemicals industry employs over 30 000 people, with 70% residing in the eThekwini region.
The chemicals manufacturing industry remains a significant contributor to provincial and local economic development and growth, with the local industry achieving a steady compound average growth rate of 3.3% year-on-year since 2012.
The role of the African Chemicals Imbizo in opening up African investment and trade opportunities for local chemicals producers, with the ensuing benefit to local job creation, is critical.
The African Chemicals Imbizo 2018 conference is future- and growth-focused, with a line-up of topics covering investment and growth, policies and strategies, health and safety, legal compliance, the future of manufacturing in a Industry 4.0 era and green chemistry.
King will speak on the topic: Reporting on competitiveness-improving initiatives in the chemicals manufacturing sector.
Other key speakers at the conference include How we made it in Africa CEO Jaco Maritz; Illovo Group MD Gavin Dalgleish; Trade Law Centre CEO Trudi Hartzenberg; Biomimicry South Africa CEO Claire Janisch; UN PRI Africa and Middle East head Nicole Martens and B&M Analysts chairperson Dr Justin Barnes.
The African Chemicals Imbizo is supported by event partners eThekwini municipality, Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal, the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority, National Cleaner Production Centre and the Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association, besides others.
Established in December 2008, the primary purpose of the DCC is to develop the competitiveness of the local chemicals manufacturing industry.
Following the successful completion of a pilot project, the DCC became operational as of March 2009, with the receipt of its first funding from the eThekwini municipality and founding member firms.