Steel master plan conference reveals action areas that need urgent attention

20th May 2022 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Creamer Media Reporter

There are a number of areas with clear to-do lists and action plans that the industry must collaboratively undertake to ensure the successful implementation of the steel industry master plan.

Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) COO Tafadzwa Chibanguza told delegates attending the Mainstreaming the Steel Master Plan Conference on May 20 that a key message to take away from the conference was that all stakeholders were “in this together”, with business, government and labour all needing each other.

Moreover, he said a warning that was reiterated by speakers throughout the two-day conference, was that the writing was on the wall for the sector and that stakeholders could not ignore the current state of things.

He elaborated that the majority of the metrics, such as the challenges facing State-owned Eskom and Transnet, were headed in the wrong direction, stating that it was, therefore, imperative for the industry to act immediately to rectify these issues.

Meanwhile, he highlighted a significant commitment made by Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel to convene a joint meeting between the economic cluster and the Steel Oversight Council.  

Chibanguza said this was an important commitment, because it would allow for high-level discussions around significant issues and for decisions to be made.

For example, this could include discussions about what the infrastructure rollout programme entails; aspects of State-owned entities and their role in the sector and how to rectify failing ones using private sector participation; and what approach to take in terms of localisation.

Further, Chibanguza noted that Patel also said that the outcomes of the conference could help shape the trade measures section contained in the steel master plan, with this potentially needing to be reviewed.

Moreover, he said Patel had issued an explicit challenge to the steel sector to develop a detailed submission in response to the Public Procurement Bill, which is currently sitting before Parliament.

Chibanguza also highlighted that there was a need for enhanced labour participation in workstreams and for the private sector to also increase its role in these.

In addition, he noted the need for a dedicated project management role, with dedicated capacity to manage workstreams. Here, Chibanguza said that private sector could play an important role.

Lastly, Chibanguza said that, even with the best of plans in place, what has tended to slow down progress in the past has been red tape and bureaucracy. He highlighted that Patel has given a directive within the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition for it to identify internal areas where red tape can be reduced, within a year.

In alignment with the collaborative spirit, he said this also presented an important opportunity for the private sector to play a role, with it able to identify areas of red tape and bureaucracy that the State could not see.