Called the Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies (Twims), it has been established in Kloof in Durban with R50 million in grant funding from the Toyota South Africa Educational Trust. Photo: AP

PRETORIA – The industrialisation of South Africa's economy and deepening of the manufacturing sector has received a boost with the official opening of a focused manufacturing institute in KwaZulu-Natal. 

Called the Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies (Twims), it has been established in Kloof in Durban with R50 million in grant funding from the Toyota South Africa Educational Trust, which received its seed funding from the Wessels family and Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan.

The trust was established by the late Dr Albert Wessels, the founder of Toyota South Africa Motors.

Johan van Zyl, the president and chief executive of Toyota Europe, said yesterday that the official opening was a very special day for a small group of people who had been working on this project for many years.

Van Zyl said it was a known fact that the contribution of manufacturing to the South African economy had been deteriorating during the past 25 years from 21 percent in 1995 to 13 percent of gross domestic product today.

He said this situation had been recognised by the South African government and the re-establishment and strengthening of the manufacturing sector had been identified as one of the key strategies in the National Development Plan.

“The manufacturing sector can make a substantial contribution towards economic growth, narrowing the inequality gap and job creation, due to its forward and backward linkages in the economy,” he said.

Van Zyl added that for every R1 invested in manufacturing, there was R1 of total value addition to the economy.

But Van Zyl stressed that one of the key success factors for manufacturers and the manufacturing sector was skilled managers who could create and lead competitive manufacturing operations.

“The trustees of the Toyota Educational Foundation recognised the need for manufacturing focused executive and management development if South Africa and African manufacturers were to realise their potential and contribute to regional economic development and social transformation,” he said.

Van Zyl said that the institute would be run on a non-profit basis with any surplus generated used to fund campus improvements and a scholarship programme for black South Africans.

Trade and industry minister Rob Davies said although his department did not have anything to do with the rollout of the institute programme, it did express its support, because it saw a need for much more strategic thinking about manufacturing in the country.

Davies said that they had concluded quite a number of years ago that industrialisation and adding value to products was the only way for South Africa to go as a country.

“We are not going to get richer as a country unless we move up the value chain and unless we have higher levels of value addition.

“The proportion of a final product that anyone is consuming that is constituted by the raw materials in it, is not only the smallest part of it, but also a declining percentage of the final product.

“So if we are going to be trapped in the global division of labour as producers and exporters of primary products, we are going to be trapped in the least lucrative part of the value chain. 

"That is the lesson we need to learn and that we need move up the value chain,” he said.

Davies added that making things was going to require higher levels of skill for those who worked in factories and from those who led industrial processes.

He said there was a need for a deep manufacturing culture and an institute like Twims that was focused on manufacturing could help in deepening manufacturing in the country.

Professor Justin Barnes, the new executive director of Twims, said a team of leading academics had developed the manufacturing-focused curriculum and the Gordon Institute of Business Studies would next year be offering a manufacturing focused masters in business administration and post graduate diploma in business administration at the new facility.

Barnes said Twims would also facilitate and host a number of non-academic programmes, including executive development programmes, short certification courses, specialist conferences and thought leadership seminars.

He added that Twims aimed to become the hub for manufacturing research in Africa, and to achieve this was creating dedicated research fellows and facilitating links with manufacturing research centres across the world.

“We believe manufacturing holds the key to the long-term, sustainable development of the South African and African economy,” he said.