TENACITY AND RESILLIENCE THE HALLMARKS OF LOCAL INDUSTRY
We are halfway through the second year of the pandemic and to some of us it may be a second year that was not expected. It is becoming clear that the situation will still last for some time and that the effects, positive and negative, will remain indefinitely if not forever. However, we can perhaps find some perspective if we look back at our thoughts and outlook on things a year ago.
A year ago, our industry, like many others, was still trying to adjust and cope with the practicalities of the lockdown and pressures brought about in the fabric of society, as well as finding ways to remain relevant, survive and still contribute to the national economy. Circumstances were still new, and this uncertainty was reflected in our industry’s sentiment that declined to confidence levels of around 27% .
Many might still ask whether anything has changed since then? There are still restrictions on activity; health infrastructure is still under pressure, and we still do not know when this will end. Whilst this might be true, it can also be argued that we have developed the ability over the past year to better cope with the uncertainty that remains with us. Sassda has always had a strong belief in the resiliency and robustness of our membership and industry and this has been proven over the past decades when the political and economic tides turned against the prosperity of the industry.
The South African stainless steel industry knows how to survive and become stronger.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE
Since a year ago, the international demand for stainless steel started to increase again and we see the upward movement of the international nickel price. Nickel is a key commodity in the production of austenitic stainless steel, as well as duplex grades. This seems to support reports of international demand rising. Locally, there are growing reports of increased workload and we are starting to see some waiting times on certain grades and gauges. Sassda statistics on the apparent consumption of stainless steel in the local market also seem to indicate that we are on a road to recovery. Economists predict improved economic growth for South Africa in this financial year, and all of the above factors support the increase in our industry’s confidence levels to over 60% for a number of consecutive months.
Other factors have also contributed to a positive outlook. This includes the announcement on alternative energy sources that provide a solution to energy constraints with tangible improvements on the horizon within 18 to 24 months. The long-awaited Steel Master Plan has also been signed with a good strategy for the growth and development of the stainless steel sector. In addition, it contains a well-balanced development strategy for the upstream portion of the value chain, strong development of downstream demand, with the potential for cost cutting measures, allowing different sectors of industry to support each other with capacity and skills.
Sassda believes, we can reflect on a year that has been traumatic at many levels for members and industry. However, it has been also a period during which our industry displayed its tenacity and resilience with the ability to adapt to circumstances and to survive crises, coming out stronger and better at the end. It is also a time to reflect on the organisations that did not make it through this; how will we assist them to come back? It is also a time to reflect on the individuals we have lost in our industry over the past year due to the virus; they will not be forgotten.
At the end of it all, we can proudly say that we are honoured to be in the South African stainless steel industry that remains Simply Brilliant – past, present and in the future.
Sassda Acting Executive Director