File picture: Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters.
PRETORIA - An initiative by Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) to identify and develop black-owned suppliers has moved up a gear with five suppliers awarded a supply contract that will come into effect once they have successfully completed an 18-month training and mentorship programme.

Called the Ntinga Project, a Xhosa word which means "to soar", it was launched last month with the announcement of the 10 finalists and followed by intensive mentoring to each finalist by an existing and established VWSA supplier.

It is the third leg of VWSA’s initiative to develop and support black-owned suppliers and follows the motor manufacturer hosting its first black-owned supplier day last year and, earlier this year, officially launching the VWSA B-BBEE Trust.

The Ntinga Project winners were announced at a function this week, following a full day of presentations to a panel of judges.

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The judges included Thomas Schaefer, the chairperson and managing director of VWSA; Takalani Tambani, head of the black industrialist programme at the Trade and Industry Department; Siphamandla Ndawonde from the VWSA B-BBEE Trust; Ndulela Canca, the purchasing manager at VWSA; and Junior Lechaba, the quality manager at VWSA.

The five winners who have been awarded a supply contract were Bona Once Bona Twice (bracket fender), Jamsco Automotive Assemblies (intermediate piece), KPL Die Casting (reinforcement ring), Production Logix (earth cables) and Thekwini Wire and Fasteners (hanger brackets).

Schaefer said VW was committed to developing and supporting these five up-and-coming black-owned suppliers.

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“We have the resources, skills and know-how in-house and together with our partners we can ensure that they will succeed. It’s only five, but it’s a start and we aim to continue to develop B-BBEE suppliers in the automotive sector,” he said.

Schaefer added that the calibre of the presentations by the finalists showed VW that there was a lot of potential in the market but all these suppliers needed guidance, training and a helping hand.

The five winners now start an intensive 18-month mentoring programme run by the VWSA Learning Academy, VWSA B-BBEE Trust, Automotive Supply Chain Competitiveness Initiative and other VWSA divisions to ensure they receive a wide range of skills that will make them successful at the end of the programme.

VWSA has been driving various empowerment initiatives within the group, despite its criticism of the government’s B-BBEE codes.

It believed it was impossible for locally based multinational vehicles manufacturers to comply with the revised code and rules and achieve a Level 4 rating, because their parent companies were not prepared to sell equity in their local operations and original equipment manufacturers lost too many points from non-compliance with the ownership element.

VWSA invested an initial R86million in the VWSA B-BBEE Trust, which aims to increase the number of quality black-owned suppliers in the automotive sector value chain, primarily by providing financial assistance.

Where required, the trust would also provide non-financial assistance such as business development growth and accessing markets through supplier development relationships.

The first investment by the trust of R22m was made to local supplier Acoustex to help them grow and develop their business.

The aim of the black-owned supplier day was for VWSA to increase the spread of its own and the industries’ supplier base, as well as growing the number of suppliers that met the BBBEE criteria for the enterprise and supplier development element.

- BUSINESS REPORT