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Stainless Steel sector in a fight for the right to supply government projects

One of the sector’s the association said, there could be improvement in, are Eskom’s transmission towers. Picture: Dumisani Dube.

One of the sector’s the association said, there could be improvement in, are Eskom’s transmission towers. Picture: Dumisani Dube.

Published Sep 19, 2023


The stainless steel sector in South Africa has called on the government to make greater use of the product locally to drive further growth of the economy and create more jobs.

The Southern African Stainless Steel Development Association (Sassda) said yesterday that together with the local demand-creating structures of the Steel Master Plan (SMP), it had identified and was focusing on projects that could positively impact the local conversion of stainless steel.

Sassda executive director Michel Basson said, “We firmly believe that increased local conversion of stainless steel is not just essential; it's a game-changer for our industry and the national economy. These projects are our industry’s stepping stones to fostering local demand and boosting the stainless steel sector”.

Sassda said that the material was used in various sectors in which the government could internalise rather than import.

The association said it could also help to improve Eskom’s transmission towers.

Sassda said that based on the need for local components in government projects, a key focus of the SMP Local Demand structures had been on applying pressure on Eskom to engage more openly regarding the supply of transmission towers.

“The criteria for allowing local industry to participate in the supply of these items and/or its components and have firm targets for local content is still debated. However, in the interim Sassda has seen an opportunity to submit a change in the material specifications to allow for the use of South African 3CR12 stainless steel, which is widely used across the globe in corrosive applications as a cost-effective alternative. This submission by Sassda - and its key members - based on Lifecycle Costing principles was received favourably by the committee, but still needs to be accepted by Eskom,” Sassda said.

Another government project with good potential for the use of stainless steel, according to Sassda, is the proposed construction of Bailey Bridges in rural areas.

These are used in emergencies or as temporary structures for planned events. They are useful in rural areas in the event of natural disasters like floods.

“During the consultation process with government departments, we once again used the opportunity to submit that 3CR12 stainless steel should be used in corrosive environments to ensure the optimum lifespan of the installations. The submission was received in a positive light and will be taken forward,” Basson said.

Sassda said their research showed that more than 10 000 tons of finished holloware products (pots, pans, cutlery etc) were imported to South Africa annually.

“This is in stark contrast to the early 2000s when the local hollowware sector efficiently met 80% of domestic demand. By 2008, this figure plummeted to less than 50% and today it stands at a mere 10%,” Basson said.

“The Steel Master Plan still sees value in resurrecting the industry and, as such, Sassda has started to research and update the information on local demand and local capacity. By determining and potentially addressing the gap, a sizeable local demand can be created for stainless steel holloware products in South Africa with job creation attached to this growth. “

Basson added that the automotive sector also had a role to play: “A major challenge hindering cost-effective production in the hollowware and cutlery industry is the demand for highly efficient automated processes. We see an opportunity for collaboration with the automotive industry, which boasts advanced technology and automation capabilities that can help us overcome this hurdle and revitalise our sector.”

There had also been a commitment from the formal brewing industry in South Africa for the procurement and use of locally made beer kegs within the context of competitive pricing and quality, Basson said.

"Overall, the potential for stainless steel in these projects is immense. Resurrecting and building these strategic stainless steel industries can lead to substantial demand and create accompanying job opportunities and economic growth."