JOHANNESBURG – Exactly 20 years ago, the late former president Nelson Mandela convened the first Presidential Jobs Summit. One of its recommendations was the establishment of a buy local campaign to promote localisation as a means of job creation, and in 2001 Proudly South African was born.
Despite our own very best efforts in the intervening years, we as an organisation and as a country have been unable to stem the loss of jobs, and so we were heartened when President Cyril Ramaphosa called the second such roundtable, which we were privileged to be part of last week.
To underline how dire the situation is, since 2008, halfway between the two Jobs Summits, 860 people a day joined the number of unemployed, many of whom have few prospects and little hope of ever finding work.
According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of this year, 9.6million South Africans are unemployed.
Just to put this level of joblessness into perspective, seven out of our nine provinces have populations smaller than this figure.
Since the announcement in February of a jobs summit, the government, labour and business have been thrashing out an agreement which was signed last week and which comprises around 70 interventions.
One of these is localisation and the president put great emphasis on this in his address to delegates. We were privileged to be the only entity outside of Nedlac’s government, labour and business constituents that was invited to be present at the summit.
We took with us a number of companies from whom we had elicited commitments of increased localisation in both the amount of local content in their production processes, and in their procurement of more local goods and services used during the course of doing business.
Many of the companies are already committed to localisation, most are Proudly South African members, while some offered their commitment through our strategic partners, including The Manufacturing Circle and Business Leadership South Africa.
Among those corporates are Coca-Cola Beverages SA, whose R400million agricultural fund will support emerging farmers and small local suppliers of inputs.
SA Breweries has made a commitment to create 10000 jobs by 2022, many through their Go Farming initiative, aimed at establishing thriving barley, hops, maize and malt industries in this country.
Nestlé SA's procurement spend in 2017 was R6.1billion and is expected to rise to R6.3bn by the end of 2018. Since 65percent of its raw materials are sourced locally this means its local procurement contribution is set to rise by about R100m this year.
Edcon has prioritised the focus on further increasing local content which was at 38percent in 2015 and is currently at 53percent and plans to grow the workforce at its Celrose and Eddels plants from 1970 to 2350 in the next six months.
In addition, through their Orange Unite programme, they provide skills training and work opportunities to women who are survivors of gender-based violence.
Their Design Innovation Challenge identifies young designers, offering them a learning platform to hone their design as well as entrepreneurial skills, which for many leads to full-time employment and for others to becoming employers themselves.
Edcon’s work with the Sustainable Cotton Cluster has assisted in the revival of the country's cotton farmers as well as skills, including weaving and dyeing.
Mondi spends 95percent of its budget on local suppliers and is working to trial and develop many of their raw material suppliers to replace current imported products. These and many more companies have pledged to growing local procurement right through their supply chain.
This is a small overview of what these companies are doing, and many more have made similar commitments, walking the talk of localisation towards re-industrialisation in order to retain and create jobs.
The Jobs Summit announced that it would form a monitoring unit to report back on progress going forward, and Proudly South African will form its own monitoring team to keep track of the commitments made by these and other companies and will feed this information into the summit's own unit.
We commit, during our annual Buy Local Summit, on March 13, 2019, to give a full report back on progress made by corporate South Africa between now and then.
The Jobs Summit called for clear and measurable solutions to the unemployment crisis facing our country.
We believe that it provided these, and now it is up to all of us to put South Africa first. We have heeded the president's call for him to send us and so there is only one song for this column, and that is Bra Hugh’s Thuma Mina.
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.