Meyer Benjamin. Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – Argos That was Odysseus’s loyal dog in Homer’s epic The Odyssey. And when Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, returns home to his island of Ithaca after 20 years, only his faithful but now neglected and ancient Argos recognises and scents his master, mustering enough strength to wag his tail.

In South Africa, circa 2018, almost 3 000 years after The Odyssey was penned, a lot of us are probably feeling a bit like Argos: tired and forlorn. 

A little battered and a little broken by the tsunami of bad news that we seem to be inundated with almost daily. 

But hope and help is on the way, and like Argos there is reason to wag our tails.

And personally I feel as pleased at all the green shoots that this great nation is evidencing as Argos must have been to scent Odysseus.

Perhaps the best news of late is that vehicle sales are at a three-year high, with the automotive industry being one of the best economic indicators we have.

The National Association of Automotive Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) said that October 2018’s figures “reflected an unexpected and welcome uptick, largely supported by fairly strong growth in the various commercial vehicle segments”.

And if commercial vehicles are selling well, it can only indicate a growth in enterprises.

More specifically, Naamsa noted that aggregate domestic vehicle sales were at their best since October 2015, with a total of 51 866 units sold.

Perhaps even better yet – in a reminder that Mzansi remains the undisputed, inarguable industrial powerhouse of the African continent – export vehicle sales for October were noticeably sharply up over just a year ago. By a healthy 20.9 percent at 34 134 vehicles.

There’s better to come, with Naamsa predicting a continued, upward momentum in exports, with a projection of about 385 000 units for 2019, as opposed to an estimated figure of about 340 000 units for 2018.

And if your ability to scent hope is as sharp as Argos’s, well, let’s say that it’s not impossible that the number of vehicle manufacturers, or at the least assemblers, with a presence in South Africa could feasibly increase in the foreseeable future. 

Upward trend

Naamsa is positive about this country’s upward trend. 

And while Naamsa doesn’t negate the fact that we face short-term challenges, they noted in a statement that “the recent investment summit served as a platform to re-establish trust between the government and the private sector, to restore credibility in South Africa as a business-friendly market economy and to generate a quantum (that word again!) increase in investment – so essential to grow and develop the economy.

“These investments, together with appropriate supporting policies, should translate into higher economic growth over the medium term… the improvement in the domestic sales numbers and the continued strong performance of export sales was one of the first positive signs for some time in the performance of a key strategic industry in the South African economy,” Naamsa said.

The gist of that is as upbeat as Argos scenting Odysseus, and importantly we need to remember that the captain of our ship, Cyril Ramaphosa, is also a hard-headed, proven businessman.

Now some may cynically speak of “Ramaphoria” being over, simply because our president didn’t achieve their unrealistic expectations in the first few months of office, but we forget the poisoned chalice he was handed by the Zuma administration.

Indeed, building on the barometer of those Naamsa figures, I see a tremendous growth for this country, and a tremendous strengthening in our massively undervalued currency – especially once all the posturing and insecurity preceding next year’s general election is over. 

And once the 2019 elections are done with, we can settle down to the serious business of nation building.

Just call me Argos, because like that mythical, much-loved dog, I can scent something in the air…

Meyer Benjamin, a car industry veteran, commentator and pre-published author, is the director of the IPOP (In People Our Passion) Motor Group, which includes Suzuki dealerships, a Mazda dealership and a Haval dealership, in addition to six successful used-car outlets.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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