The Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (Saisc) has launched a ‘buy local’ campaign in an attempt to impede the rising job losses in the steel construction industry. The campaign, which started with the erection of a billboard on the R21 Edenvale off-ramp, is supported by Proudly South Africa.
The campaign, headlined ‘Don’t Steal. Buy SA Steel’, equates importing structural steelwork with ‘robbing’ or ‘stealing’ decent jobs from South Africans and, according to Saisc industry development executive Kobus de Beer, this is correct.
“This sentiment is based on formal research carried out by the institute to determine the job creation multipliers for fabricated structural steel in South Africa,” he says. “The bottom line of this research is that for every 1 000 t of fabricated structural steel made and used in South Africa, 100 real jobs are created, which are completely lost if the products are imported.
“Taking into account the ‘multiplier effect’, which measures the knock-on loss to the country for every job lost in the steel construction industry alone, the negative impact is astronomical,” De Beer says.
“In a country where job creation is of paramount importance, allowing existing jobs to be lost is unforgivable. Moreover, these are ‘decent jobs’ – jobs for a full year done by trained people in existing, fully equipped facilities and paid for in accordance with agreed norms in the industry.”
De Beer adds that there are many examples of fabricated structural steel being imported into South Africa from various overseas sup-pliers, in spite of the fact that capacity exists to supply and manufacture these essential goods and services locally. “This directly and indirectly causes job losses. The wisdom of importing ‘cheaper’ fabricated structural steel has often been shown to be questionable,” he says.
De Beer emphasises that the push to “buy locally” is not meant in the spirit of giving the local industry a hand-out irrespective of its productivity and efficiency.
“It’s not an anticompetition initiative at all. Our industry must be and must remain competitive against the hoard of foreign companies exporting structural steel to this country. But the fact that South Africans have managed to export about 280 000 t of structural steel in the last two years alone does indicate a reasonable enough degree of competitiveness, which Saisc, in conjunction with its members, is continuously working to improve,” he says.
Turning back to the promotional campaign, De Beer says that it was designed following extensive discussions with major clients and government organisations.
“Given South Africa’s relative overall com-petitiveness, buying fabricated steel locally is not only beneficial in terms of the overall efficiency of trade, it is also good for the country’s economy as a whole,” he concludes.