KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala, speaks to exhibitors at a previous Manufacturing Indaba in Durban.
DURBAN - Despite the sluggish economy, there are some signs of growth in the local manufacturing sector and positive sentiments emerging regarding prospects for this year.

The state of the sector came under the spotlight at a Manufacturing Indaba KZN business breakfast event at Durban’s International Convention Centre on Friday.

The popular Manufacturing Indaba conference and exhibition is scheduled to take place over two days in the city, on August14 and 15.

Philippa Rodseth, a Manufacturing Circle (MC) executive, said that despite the country being in a recession in the first half of last year, the results of the organisation’s quarterly business survey were on or above the index’s neutral 50-point threshold, indicating expansion and some positive sentiment.

The Manufacturing Circle Investment Tracker (MCIT) is a composite index that tracks investment trends in the sector. MCIT focuses on actual expenditure patterns of a sample of manufacturing firms in the areas of plant and equipment, inventory, property, research and development and human capital. A score above the 50-point threshold indicates that expenditure is growing, while a reading below the neutral threshold indicates a declining expenditure trend.

The latest MCIT was 58 in the third quarter of 2018, which was the same as the second quarter, indicating that expenditure patterns were expanding despite the technical recession in the first quarter. According to Statistics SA, the country’s economy expanded by a mere 0.8% last year.

According to MCIT, the most buoyant manufacturing sectors appeared to be paper and packaging, and the automotive industry.

To beat the rising costs of doing business and to remain competitive in a difficult economic climate, paper and packaging manufacturers have planned to invest further in property, plant and equipment expansion, maintenance, replacement projects and high-quality products.

The Manufacturing Indaba KZN offers manufacturers, industry experts and other stakeholders access to the latest in manufacturing knowledge, information about the government’s Black Industrialist Programme and other investment incentives, as well as insight into trends affecting manufacturing.