Eight South African employees of the Chinese majority-owned Yangtze Optics Africa Cable (YOAC), which is midway through the construction of one of the biggest local optical fibre cable manufacturing plants, are currently being trained on fibre cable manufacturing, in preparation for the launch of the plant in January 2017.
The training programme covers the full spectrum, from optic-fibre colouring, secondary coating, stranding, sheathing to cable testing and quality control.
On completion of their training in mid-September, the team will return to South Africa to train the rest of the teams that will run the Durban-based plant.
YOAC has further committed itself to a four-year skills development plan to expand local skills in specialist roles in optical fibre cable manufacturing.
YOAC production supervisor Velile Mngonyama said that, although he had prior training and experience in cable production, the precision and detail required for optical fibre manufacturing was much greater.
“Although the processes for copper cable manufacturing and optical fibre are similar, the technical specifications and applications for optical fibre are different. The experience has been an eye opener and we cannot wait to come back home to share what we have learnt with the rest of the team in South Africa,” he noted.
YOAC CEO Pieter Viljoen pointed out that optical fibre would change the way in which people and businesses connected.
“In the next few years, fibre-optic network roll-out will increase significantly, as developing countries invest in fibre networks, as these are faster and provide much more reliable connections than copper.
“With increased demand for fibre-optic networks, there will be a need to train local people to set up fibre-optical local manufacturing plants to supply the anticipated huge potential market,” commented Viljoen.
Referring to the recent China-South Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation Conference, held in Durban, Viljoen reiterated that YOAC’s efforts were aimed at further strengthening relations with South Africa and ensuring that while Chinese companies invest in South Africa, they tap into local resources and empower and upskill people, and ensure that where there are skills gaps, solutions come from local people.
The new manufacturing facility entails a R150-million investment by YOAC and its local joint venture partner Mustek.
The plant has manufacturing capacity of more than one-million fibre kilometres, and will supply cable to fibre-to-the-home service providers, private sector companies, mobile telecommunications providers and the public sector.
The 15 000 m2 manufacturing facility, based at the Dube TradePort, in Durban, is scheduled for completion in November, with production starting in December.