While the motor control centre market in South African today faces its own fair share of problems, it also presents many opportunities for those willing and able to identify them.
In fact, in light of the weaker rand, we should take a serious second look at our manufacturing sector in a bid to grow and pursue the export market – if only government would help us to do that.
We should never underestimate the importance of contributing to the continued development of other African countries or the international investment appetite for renewable energy. I believe that we in South Africa are the natural springboard for this development. We have so many positives in our favour and, given a national vision and focus on development, we could achieve much good throughout our continent.
The need to develop and modernise our municipal infrastructure and utility services must and will lead to opportunities for our industry, and we will benefit from supporting this sector as development projects come to execution. However, I do feel that clumsy bureaucracy and corruption remain inhibiting factors, even when the funds are available.
Our markets are being invaded silently by foreign companies with no long-term interest in the welfare of South Africans. They introduce counterfeit and low-cost products which, in so many cases, are of very poor quality, do not meet our standards and are not supported well. As a result, those of us who provide quality and safe and reliable, type-tested solutions are often side-lined.
The banking crisis of 2008 has led to the engineer and foreman with whom we had built a relationship of trust and dependability being supplanted by the procurement officer. Common sense, experience and good intuition have been replaced with commercial correctness. As a result, we see less than desirable solutions being accepted by companies that should know better. The lack of skills continues to impact us but, for the moment, things seem to be improving, although this may only be a short reprieve. I am afraid that, when the commodity prices turn and the industry starts to grow again, this problem will become even more acute. We should not confuse trained people with skilled people. We lost a lot of skilled people when the apprenticeships, technician development and pupil engineer development programmes were replaced with the current system. The older programmes produced trained and skilled individuals with an appetite for their trade. Unfortunately, apprenticeship opportunities and development programmes are few and far between and trainee technician programmes are extremely scarce.
It seems these people are being pushed through a system that is ill-preparing them for industry and which, itself, is ill-prepared to cope with demand.
Black economic empowerment is, in my opinion, a dismal attempt to correct the wrongs of the past and it is no secret that preference is often given to companies and individuals who do not have the skills, experience, capital or know-how to complete what is expected of them.
A different and positive approach to bridging the gap would reap much better results and would cost our economy far less. The political race card is getting stale and we should all get over this now and focus on an equal opportunity market where competence, capability, quality and price are valued equally. It is time to face forward and to work together, South Africa!
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