South Africa needed to encourage the manufacturing of local goods rather than export raw material then buy back the finished products, says South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents (SAASOA) chief executive Peter Besnard.
It was imperative the country encourage investment, reopen factories, create employment and cast aside or amend the rigid labour-related regulations in place, he said in an interview with Business Report.
The mindset of all South Africans needed to change, Besnard said.
“As you are aware, the Covid-19 pandemic plunged the country into utter despair, completely derailing many industries. To the extent that some have been unable to recover and were forced to wind down their plants, and with it [brought] further unemployment woes to a population that has increased to 60 million.”
The population was growing faster than the economy. Unless this was curbed, many university graduates and matriculants would find themselves in desperate circumstances. Added to this, there had been one adversity after the other that the country had to grapple with this year, said Besnard.
SAASOA is the voice of shipping, and represents maritime interest in South Africa on behalf of its membership, which includes all ship owners, operators and vessel agents.
The organisation said there had been a massive shipping boom since Covid-19 that had never occurred in the past hundred years, and with it came the assumption that shipping lines had generated funds of an unbelievable magnitude.
However, ships had to be maintained, crew had to be paid and ships did not run on the smell of an oil rag, he said.
“Such is shipping that for a period of time it is plain sailing, and then next turbulent waters as companies endeavour to ride the waves. A phenomenon that is grossly overlooked. In any business you will encounter good times and bad times, and this has to be taken into account,” said Besnard.
According to Statista, South Africa is positioned along major international trade routes, and the maritime industry plays a vital role in the country’s economy. With a coastline stretching over 2 800 kilometres, South Africa has access to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, providing abundant opportunities for maritime activities.
Cargo throughput showed signs of improvement, as last year South African ports processed more than 4.4 million TEUs of containers and about 173 million metric tons of dry bulk cargo.
“The country’s ports saw an increase in throughput in 2022 across all cargo and commodity segments, indicating an improvement in economic activity after the challenging year of 2021 marked by the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of vehicles – an essential type of goods for South African trade – passing through the country’s ports reached over 700 000 units in 2022. The vehicle throughput was 46 percent larger than in 2021, but still below the 2019 and 2020 levels.”
Going into next year, Besnard said South African politicians needed to be realistic and stop wasting money on unnecessary parties and wasted travel, and attend to the realities that made a country a success or a failure.
“For too long, we have been positioning people who lack experience in top positions, hence the crash of nearly every SOE, and with it increasing the pressure and down grading on our already heavily-flagging economy. Having highlighted this point, I am not advocating that there are not competent people, but for heaven's sake let's be realistic and thoughtful in every decision taken.”
With regards to load shedding, SAASOA said that for the time being they could hold up to Stage 6, and some ports had entered into agreements with municipalities to overcome a complete shutdown.
“But we need to stop playing games and right the wrongs at our electricity supplier power stations.”
The chief executive said he believed that SA was a country rich in minerals, had a strategic sea route, was capable of building and managing anything ,and had an incredible medical network that could compete with the best, but that it preferred not to make use of the skills that existed.
“Why?” he asked.
He and many others were proud South Africans, but among the good existed the bad.
“We are also a country that has stood the test of time, from sanctions, bans, [and] on the home front, looting, cyber attacks, floods, a flagging economy. [We] have hit the canvas so many times, but risen to live and fight another day; just look at the glorious Bokke in the World Cup. Indeed, the boys carry the title of being the best in the world.”