The first was the opening of the extension to its processed chicken plant by Country Bird Holdings (CBH) and the second was the announcement by Nissan last week that they will be building the next generation Nissan Navara bakkie here in SA, with production starting next year, adding to their NP200 and NP300 lines.
CBH production expansion is part of a R400 million investment in the North West Province. The processed chicken schnitzels, nuggets, strips and burgers facility is located in Tigane, a township close to Hartbeesfontein.
The opening of the facility has created 50 new direct jobs and many other indirect ones throughout the value chain. For example, one of our members, Boteng Food Solutions, is supplying the butter mix, spices and breadcrumbs for the nuggets and burgers, meaning employment for their own workers is made more secure through this valuable contract.
Nissan’s R3 billion investment in its Rosslyn plant is significantly higher, but for the residents of the adjacent communities of Ga-Rankuwa, among others, offers a similar lifeline for additional employment opportunities. The new production lines are expected to create 400 new direct jobs and 800 in the associated value chain, largely boosted by their planned local content levels of 38 percent rising to 60percent in three years.
Together with the Automotive Industry Development Centre, Nissan has identified 15 black-owned businesses with whom it is already working in preparation for the new production line. This is in addition to the 318 BBBEE suppliers it already supports.
In the Western Cape, Hisense provides the previously drug-ravaged community of Atlantis with more than 500 jobs. Of the white goods producer’s entire workforce, 98percent come from the immediate area, making it an invaluable member of that community.
In KZN, residents of Hammarsdale have been uplifted and then left impoverished as waves of investment have come and gone. Once the centre of the province’s vibrant textiles sector, the area was hit with factory closures as cheap imported garments began to damage the local market.
Next it was poultry, a sector which is pivotal in our country’s food production, but was itself victim of imported cheap produce, and jobs have been lost in that sector in recent years. Now, happily, the area has seen another upturn in its fortunes as the clothing and textile sector makes a slow comeback. While it is commendable for companies to choose areas of low employment which face the consequent socio-economic challenges, it can be devastating to that same community when its sole source of employment is forced to close.
All this shows how critical to our economy and people's livelihoods the consumption of locally manufactured goods and products is. Outside of any export opportunities, without our own contribution to the demand for locally produced chicken products cars, clothes, TVs, fridges, etc, entire communities will sink into poverty, potentially taking an entire generation’s development with them.
We cannot afford to see communities such as Ga-Rankuwa, Hammarsdale, Tigane and Atlantis be decimated by the withdrawal of some of our biggest employers due to the lack of demand for what is produced by the factories in those areas.
Riana Nel said in her hit song it is a Long Way From Over, and the journey to turn this economy around and drastically reduce unemployment has just begun. We must all play our part in this regard.
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African. The views expressed here are his own.