Sassda Western Cape Regional Manager Michel Basson continued Sassda’s African odyssey this time in Zambia where he forged strong new ties across the country via a stand at the Caminex exhibition and talks with the Zambian Engineering Council…
Q. What was the purpose of your visit to Zambia and why does Sassda view these types of interactions of strategic value to members in terms of growth opportunities on the continent?
A. The purpose of the visit was the expansion of the Sassda footprint into the Southern African region as our name implies. It is also an opportunity through which we represent members at different events and serves as a cost-effective way of marketing, gaining market information without running the risk and costs involved for individual members as exhibitors. Sassda also had a secondary aim albeit it just as important, namely to gain Zambian certification for our educational products. We regard this as important since the better the technical understanding of stainless steel is, the more it will be used successfully in industries with huge potential, such as mining, agro-processing and water supply. The Caminex exhibition is a very good platform for this, since it is the biggest mining event in the Copperbelt region of Zambia. This specific expo also has a strong agricultural element with visitors attending from far and wide and drawn from a multitude of sectors.
Q. What were the details and highlights of the Exhibition stand at Caminex?
A. The South African pavilion was moved to be part of the main exhibition area this year which yielded some very positive results. More than 4 000 official visitors went through the pavilion and it was noticeable that the quality of visitors increased dramatically, compared to previous years. Once again it was apparent that mines do suffer from wrong stainless steel grade selection in their processes, due to a fair amount of product ignorance and, to some extent, fabrication issues. This again confirms the need for stainless education in Zambia. Products such as locally manufactured corrugated stainless tubes were received with great interest with a new found application for electrical conduit in corrosive conditions in the mining environment. Access control and laboratory equipment also got a fair share of interest, as well as equipment and services such as plasma and laser cutting.
Q. Please elaborate on your visit the Zambian-based stainless steel stove manufacturer in terms of the current status of project and its innovative aspects?
A. The original intention was to use this product to illustrate that cross border co-operation in the region is possible and viable. The inventor is very excited about the potential of this product and it seems that based on manufacturing cost and market expectation, a fair profit can be made. Related to the stove initiative I had very good interactions with Zambian authorities such as the Zambian Development Bank and support from our Deputy High Commissioner in Zambia regarding local investment in a small hi-tech facility that will house the first Zambian laser cutter for modern fabrication. This is regarded as a potential game changer for the Zambian manufacturing sector creating a demand for South African expertise and material. I am therefore currently assisting with a business plan and company registration for the venture.
Q. What was the nature of your discussions with the Zambian Engineering Council?
A. One of the stakeholders in the issue as described above, is the Engineer Council of Zambia. I had a very good discussion with this council’s Director of Operations/ Deputy Registrar regarding our course accreditation in Zambia. He is a professional engineer and fully understands the impact Sassda’s educational products can make. To this end, and in order for him to discuss this with his board, I have left him with an electronic sample pack of the various courses. Since the proposed laser cutting facility (see previous answer) has a secondary intention of being a centre for education and training, with a strong research and design flavour, the Council has expressed its support and involvement should the concept materialise.
Q. What would you say are the 3 key economic/trade developments that have taken place in Zambia in the last 12-18 months that Sassda members should know about?
A. It’s always to bear in the mind the stability of the Zambian economy and its constant exchange rate with the South African Rand at about ZWK 1 equal to around R1.30. The trade environment is friendly and easy to operate in, since Zambia boasts high literacy rates, with the population well versed in English.
Q. What are the hot spot projects/sectors for Zambia for 2018?
A. Agro and food processing will be the future hot spots with huge potential for development, however, mining still offers lucrative opportunities thanks to a small but definite revival in activities within that sector. Some of our members made good contacts in the peripheries of the mining sector, with sub-contractors and service providers. From the Caminex Expo it also seems that opportunities do exist in the building and construction industries. Distance, however, and poor infrastructure in the rural areas does remain a stumbling block. Some of the more seasoned exhibitors argue that the use of a dependable local agent works to their advantage.