Picture: (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Durban - Delegates at the KZN Manufacturing Indaba in Durban last week were surprised to see an influx of delegates from outside the province.

Duane Newman, co-founder of government programme specialists, Cova Advisory, one of the sponsors of the event, said he had not expected to see so many businesses from Gauteng and Cape Town represented at the local indaba.

“Issues which were discussed were not just relevant to the KZN companies, but we also saw the interest from Gauteng-based and other businesses which are keen to expand into KZN.

“The Economic Development MEC, Sihle Zikalala, delivered the welcoming address, and I found him very supportive. I was pleasantly surprised he was so business-friendly,” he said.

Topics highlighted at the indaba included manufacturing in the future in light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how small to large manufacturers can maximise existing markets while adapting to global economic trends to access new export markets in Africa.

Newman said he had been asked by delegates why there was no representation from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the discussion panel covering state support for business that he had appeared on during the indaba.

He said there were other channels for firms seeking incentive support for their investments, including private sector experts.

“Advisers and the DTI can co-exist,” he said. “Support is inherently complex. Business has the choice to use advisers to help them to navigate the processes. It is not just about filling in the forms.

“It is clear a lot of business does not understand the DTI’s support framework - the Industrial Policy Action Programme (Ipap) - and they have no intention to read it, either.”

Support

“The government, and especially the DTI, does a lot of work to support business and need to be commended. The big question is whether business understands it enough to apply it to their own business strategy. And the answer often seems to be ‘no’,” he said.

Newman said companies which did not get to the event should consider attending the next one, or another of the regional manufacturing indabas. “These are platforms for established and emerging manufacturers to network with their peers, to meet and learn from industry leaders, government officials and experts who can unpick some of the complexities of doing business in South Africa,” he said.

“With government poised to launch a new strategy for supporting the auto sector, the president seeking $100bn (R1.4trillion) in new investment, a jobs and investment summit looming, and continuing investor concerns about the land issue, BBBEE requirements, the new carbon tax, packaging tax and sugar tax, it is time to see how business can leverage off these initiatives and build stronger relationships with stakeholders in their value chain.”

Newman noted that the latest DTI report on Ipap had provided some useful examples of the assistance already given to businesses in KZN. “It is never a bad time to review your own investment strategy and to check whether you are getting all the support on offer from government.

“Government is doing a lot to support local manufacturers. You just need to look and engage with government. The indaba has been an ideal place to do that,” he said.

KZN had benefited extremely well from the government’s support schemes, he said, with the Ipap report revealing that almost R14bn of investment had been attracted to the province, not far behind Gauteng, with R16.5bn.

“We know KZN can produce world-class manufacturers. Just look at the Toyota plant in Durban, which produces vehicles to the best global standards, and at Bell Equipment, which is a world leader in Richards Bay,” Newman said.

The Mercury