PROUDLY SA: Sometimes, a little light in the tunnel can make the journey to the end easier

Eustace Mashimbye is the CEO of Proudly South African

Eustace Mashimbye is the CEO of Proudly South African

Published Dec 6, 2022


By Eustace Mashimbye

It's been over two years since we experienced the shock of the national shutdown.

During this period, we saw a rise in people showing interest in the country's economic performance, including its ability to withstand the crisis, retain jobs and ensure that we have the security of supply in the face of global supply chain disruptions.

Generally, the pandemic era did not only cause anxiety and frustration for people in South Africa but also caused people to interrogate how the country handled the crisis more in-depth.

This year has been chiefly about playing catch-up on all the economic challenges the country had encountered before the lockdown period and those that came to light during the last two years. As a nation, we face a myriad of problems, such as a lack of sufficient economic growth, energy crisis, water scarcity, job losses, natural disasters, the civil unrest of July 2021, petrol increases, global interest rates and investment strikes. These issues have caused some panic and uncertainty about our direction in what seems to be a very dark tunnel.

I was doing much reflecting, looking at how far we've come in the past two years. Then, finally, a glimpse of hope appeared. I realised that the light needed for the tunnel is not at the end; light is necessary within the tunnel. For us to rebuild, restore, and reboot, we need a clear action strategy and measures that equip the country and its people for success.

With that in mind, my pondering process directed me to light in the context of South Africa and the powers at play. Imagine South Africa as a tunnel and light being the measures needed to improve, develop, and sustain the country's functioning for its people's betterment. The public and private sectors are the light required for the tunnel to make it through to the end.

To rebuild, reform, and reboot the country, we need to identify the right measure of light required for this dark tunnel. Two things come to my mind: the companies that invest while there's a perceived investment strike; and the investment within the local manufacturing sector.

Proudly South African promotes the restoration and rebuilding of the country's economy through the call for local procurement to retain and create much-needed jobs. Encouraging people, buyers, and organisations to buy local produce creates a long-lasting positive ripple effect in the job creation spectrum.

Job creation contributes to the reduction of poverty and fosters economic growth. Through the companies that boldly took a standby investing in the gloomy tunnel that is South Africa, I felt a warm energy around me — feeling energised about the prospects of a better future that complements our overall localisation-focused strategy at Proudly SA.

Investments are essential for a properly functioning system in a country, and it goes without saying that when investments are correctly used and effectively deployed, the outcomes benefit all parties involved, i.e., the businesses, the government, the people, and the investors.

One of the critical areas for investment is the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing plays a huge role in contributing to economic growth and creating jobs (due to its labour-intensive nature); therefore, investing in this industry is critical.

Earlier this year, Proudly South African collaborated with economist Dr Iraj Abedian to conduct research on the revitalisation of SA's manufacturing sector. The findings highlighted critical data from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) showing that although manufacturing made up 13.5% of the economy in terms of sector share of nominal gross domestic product during quarter four of 2021, manufacturing only contributed 9.1% towards total employment in the country.

The most significant discovery around the manufacturing sector findings is that entry-level jobs now require critical skills for basic functioning. However, low-skill level jobs no longer require basic skills and knowledge as the Fourth Industrial Revolution demands workers to be knowledgeable in their fields. In true testament, this has translated into a promising salary increase over the years for lower-level jobs.

Overall, the study concludes that investment in the manufacturing sector is necessary. Investing in the local manufacturing industry will benefit the job market and contribute towards sustainable economic growth.

Kimberly-Clark Professional-SA comes to mind among companies that continue to dedicate its efforts towards rebuilding and improving local communities. Earlier this year, Kimberly-Clark Professional-SA launched an investment demonstrating the actual values of being Proudly South African. It introduced the expansion of its local manufacturing capacity through an investment in a new state-of-the-art production line at Enstra Mill in Springs, Gauteng. Being intentional about this investment outcome emphasises its contribution to South Africa's business and economic growth.

The direction taken by Kimberly-Clark Professional-SA affirms Proudly South African's decree to create careers in the industry. Not only will Kimberly-Clark Professional-SA contribute to the skills development of operational teams to utilise global quality and innovative technology, but it also aims to develop and support its distribution partners to ultimately support business partner growth, employment, and development opportunities.

Kimberly-Clark Professional-SA solidifies its passion for turning ideas into sustainable beneficial realities for its customers, stakeholders, and local communities. Its route was propelled by insights from customers, partners, and users, sparking the demand to manufacture innovative product solutions locally.

It aims to deliver real business benefits, maintain world-class quality through investment in advanced technology, and improve the sustainability of its portfolio. This approach also contributes to ensuring that the country produces what it requires and consumes.

Furthermore, ensuring that there is sustained security of supply even when we again experience global supply chain disruptions as we did at the inception of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as those being experienced due to the lockdown(s) in China currently.

The journey through a well-lit economic tunnel depends on local and global investments. So, we commend the companies that choose a route that seems narrow and filled with obstacles. Companies that break boundaries and intentionally decide to participate in the positive change and transformation of a country desperate for acts of economic patriotism. There is a better-looking future, and we just need to get everyone on board in order to ensure a bright future for the South African economy. A responsibility that lives with both the public and private sectors locally and globally.

Sometimes, a little light in the tunnel will get us to the end of the tunnel much more quickly and successfully. As we get to the end of the tunnel, we hope that there are many more in this country that can follow Lira's lead in singing "feel good" like she does in her hit song with the same title, as they will be able to fend for themselves.

Eustace Mashimbye is the CEO of Proudly South African