Government needs to roll out its promised infrastructure spend as it is central to reigniting industrial capacity in the domestic steel sector, Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) CEO Lucio Trentini said on April 13.
“This industry stands ready to make its contribution to translating the government’s vision of reindustrialising the metals and engineering (M&E) sector, and to start translating visions, promises and policy into action and deliverables,” he added.
Trentini’s comments are in the lead-up to the Mainstreaming the Steel Master Plan conference, which will be held at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), in Sandton, on May 19 and 20.
The conference, which will focus on addressing immediate challenges and advantages presented by the Steel Master Plan, is being organised and hosted by Seifsa in partnership with the IDC and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC).
The Steel Master Plan – which was launched on June 11 last year and signed by representatives of government, business and labour – provides a series of practical steps for the steel and engineering industry to follow to reinvigorate itself.
Seifsa said it would “give everyone a chance to discuss their frustration, praise and ask questions” about the Steel Master Plan at the event.
The conference will host senior DTIC officials, representatives from the Steel Oversight Committee and business and labour leaders, who will analyse the progress of the plans, and lay foundations for the development and growth of the M&E sector in the years ahead.
Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel will deliver the keynote address, after an opening address from Seifsa president Elias Monage. Other speakers include National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa general secretary Irvin Jim and Solidarity deputy general secretary Marius Croukamp.
There will also be a series of panel discussions looking at supply-side measures, demand-side measures, transformation, resource mobilisation and the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.
“The big gains will be made by moving our infrastructure programme from shallow waters to deep waters and to get it moving on a bigger scale and then introducing a localisation requirement not only on primary steel, but also downstream steel,” Trentini said.
Metal supplier Scaw Metals CEO Doron Barnes said that, although there was frustration among many in the industry about the Steel Master Plan, it had the potential to rejuvenate upstream and downstream industries.
He said much of the criticism of the plan was the result of a misunderstanding of its role.
“We need to re-energise it, we need to prioritise and we need to get workstreams going around those priorities,” added steel supplier Macsteel CEO Mike Benfield about the Steel Master Plan.
He was concerned that it would not become a reality without a “whole-hearted” commitment to a list of prioritised infrastructure projects, specifically in the areas of rail, ports and power.
Barnes previously told Engineering News that industry should take the lead by dedicating time, energy and resources to make the plan work, rather than complaining.
For these reasons, Trentini said Seifsa was eager to see many small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners at the conference.
“We urge SMEs to attend the conference so their important voices can also be heard. It is crucial that they too are well represented at the conference” he said.