The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) said on Thursday that the contraction in the metals and engineering sector was a concern not only for the manufacturing industry, but for the whole of South African economy.
Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba called on government, business and labour to collaborate in efforts address the challenges currently facing the manufacturing sector in general, and the metals and engineering sector in particular.
Nyatsumba said challenges facing the sector include unfair competition from highly-subsidised countries, weak exports and job losses.
"We need to urgently turn around that trend because the steel and engineering sector is an important contributor to the GDP and job creation," Nyatsumba said.
"This requires collaboration between government, labour and business. With unemployment currently at unacceptably high levels, South Africa needs a vibrant and competitive steel and engineering sector. This Indaba is an opportunity for the different stakeholders to exchange ideas."
Nyatsumba was speaking at opening day of the third annual South African Metals and Engineering Indaba in Sandton. The Indaba was held in collaboration with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti).
The Indaba will offer an opportunity for business executives, policy-makers and trade union representatives to collaborate towards addressing the challenges facing the sector.
It takes place against the backdrop of negative sentiment about the South African economy because of, among others, falling GDP and contraction in the secondary sector in the first quarter of this year.
According to the South African Reserve Bank’s Quarterly Bulletin June 2017, manufacturing production contracted for the third successive quarter in the first quarter of this year mainly due to weak domestic demand and low business confidence.
According to Statistics South Africa, the metals and engineering sector has shrunk in each successive year since 2013.
Prominent speakers, including government ministers, business executives, political party leaders, and trade unionists will deliberate over two days on issues like how political leadership in Southern Africa advances or hampers economic growth and how to ensure that manufacturing in Southern Africa is internationally competitive.