Manufacturing sector indispensable in SA: trade department official

web_photo_Lionel October _21062018

Director general of the department of trade and industry (the dti), Lionel October .

JOHANNESBURG - The South African government has acknowledged that the manufacturing sector is an indispensable sector if the country wants to achieve its economic growth targets, director general of the department of trade and industry (the dti), Lionel October said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Manufacturing Indaba in Sandton, October said in order to grow the economy, the government was working closely with the private sector to secure and support investments in a modernised and competitive manufacturing sector.

“With the manufacturing sector shedding 320,000 jobs during the global financial crisis, government had to respond through resolute counter-cyclical industrialisation efforts that arrested the scale of job losses during this period. There was a real danger of even deeper de-industrialisation and we averted it,” said October.

October said South Africa was also supportive of efforts to ensure that African countries in the Southern African Development Communities (SADC) and beyond participate as partners in ensuring an integrated investment-led trade and industrial integration programme on the African continent.

“While the share of manufacturing to total Gross Domestic Product declined from 15 percent to 13 percent, manufacturing value-added in real terms grew from R338 billion to R383 billion in 2016. This was led by sectors such as food and beverages, automotives, chemicals and plastics, averaging two percent annual growth,” he said.

He said that the continent was South Africa’s main export market, adding that the two preferential trade agreements that South Africa was negotiating will open new markets.

“Our main challenge is to prioritise intra-Africa trade. As you know the global challenges such as trade war, the increased protectionism right across the world and so on, they necessitate that we should trade amongst ourselves as the region and the continent. This is our way of industrialising," he said. 

"The reason why African countries can’t industrialise is that of small markets, therefore if we want to industrialise we should increase the size of the markets and I think this is what intra- Africa trade integration is offering.”