Proudly South African, the country’s buy local advocacy campaign, has as its slogan ‘Buy local to create jobs’. At a time in our recent history when unemployment levels are at their highest, it is sometimes hard to think you can make that difference, when industries such as poultry, textiles – and steel, including stainless steel, – are losing thousands of jobs per month to dumping, overseas government subsidised products, and tariff agreements which favour cheap imported goods.
Stainless steel Magazine spoke to Proudly South African’s CEO, Eustace Mashimbye, about the work the organisation is doing in the sector to stem the tide of job losses.
Eustace Mashimbye say: “Our efforts in the steel sector, including a membership drive, centre around a collective effort to work to halt the decline of the industry and avert more job losses. We have been working closely for example with Arcelor Mittal as one of the major players, to convene a sector specific forum before the end of the year which will see all the key role players and stakeholders in one room working towards an action plan of specific interventions that are realistic and that which can be implemented. These role players include the dti, Treasury, representatives from labour, ITAC for tariffs, and of course steel companies, especially those downstream industries that are bearing the biggest brunt of the crisis.”
WHAT OTHER STEPS ARE YOU TAKING IN THE MEANTIME?
Earlier this year we launched an in house tender monitoring system that flags RFQs and RFPs issued by all 3 tiers of government and SOEs in sectors designated for increased local procurement.
This now includes steel and stainless steel fabricated products as these are now on the list of designated products. The system enables us to screen the tender documents to ensure that provision for local procurement is included in the Ts&Cs and if not, refer it back to the issuer and/or procuring public entity for revision. The dti Industrial Procurement Unit has been especially helpful in assisting with these tenders.
Together with the private sector we want to see what more can be done using this system and to this end we are discussing eventual site visits to verify full compliance even during delivery of the procured items. We have already had a lot of success with the system and hope we can build on that.
WHAT KIND OF PROCUREMENT EDUCATION PROGRAMMES DO YOU RUN AS PROUDLY SA?
As well as our annual Buy Local Summit & Expo that takes place in Johannesburg in March, we have a public sector procurement forum roadshow which throughout the year visits all the other eight provinces and brings together local and provincial procurement officials. The aim is to ensure that they are aware that they are legislated to procure locally in certain sectors, but also underline the importance on the economy and jobs of making local procurement an absolute priority across all sectors. We are also speaking to other organisations such as SALGA to gain more access to municipalities and the SOE Procurement Forum to speak directly to their procurement officers.
The more we can educate both sides of the supply and demand equation, the more we can be sure that no opportunities are lost for the local steel industry.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED IN THE STEEL SECTOR AND WITH WHICH PROUDLY SA CAN HELP SPECIFICALLY?
Sassda and Proudly SA have together identified those areas of the stainless-steel value chain where there are bottlenecks and pricing challenges. As well as being an advocacy group, we also actively lobby and ensure enforcement of local procurement legislation. We are working towards greater beneficiation of stainless steel happening here at home. Shipping our raw steel overseas and paying high prices to buy it back in new shapes and formats makes not only the steel industry but other industry sectors uncompetitive. These high input prices impact for example on the furniture manufacturing companies – they cannot compete with cheaper imported pieces that use their own steel in their designs and production.
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS IN THE STEEL INDUSTRY YOU STILL NEED TO REACH OUT TO?
We are already working with NUMSA as the largest representative of labour in this space, but would like Solidarity which has a Save our Steel campaign to come to our forum and share their thoughts. Also, we appeal to the larger steel companies themselves to join the Proudly South African movement and be part of the collective effort. The more coordinated our efforts, the stronger our voice is. We need the steel industry in South Africa. It cannot be allowed in the future to be one of those ‘used to be great’ sectors. It has to be kick started back to life and we hope that Proudly South African can help it do that.