The SouthernAfrica Stain- less Steel Development Association (Sassda) aims to revive local cutlery manufacturing and reduce the country’s dependence on Chinese imports by implementing its Ama Izi Puni Teaspoon project.
The project is expected to yield five-million medium-quality cast teaspoons over five years from South Africa’s currently non- existent stainless steel cutlery industry.
“It is unfair that local manufacturers have to compete against Chinese manufacturers, which get a handsome rebate for exporting to South Africa,” states Sassda executive director Sethakgi Kgomo.
Imports of cutlery have been increasing over the years and the massive rise in imports from China is indicative of the success of the Chinese in penetrating even the smaller global markets, such as South Africa.
Imports of finished stainless steel products were up 35%, compared with 2009, at 13 141 t in 2010, with hollowware contributing significantly to this figure.
The teaspoon project is a joint venture with the City of Johannesburg to establish a facility where skilled and semiskilled people, who will be trained by local silver cutlery manufacturer Gunhill Cutlers & Silversmiths, can be centrally located and manufacture teaspoons for distribution and sale to the domestic market. The intention is to also, at a later stage, export the cutlery to the rest of Africa.
The city will provide the initiative with premises, as well as fund and recruit suitable candidates, while Sassda is working with the manufacturers to set up cooperatives.
Sassda hopes to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the city by the end of this month or by early June.
“The pilot teaspoon project aims to create employment through the secondary and tertiary manufacture of stainless steel products, and, if successful, will be replicated in other provinces,” says Kgomo.
It also aims to develop a new and sustainable industry to promote downstream beneficiation, promote export opportunities, develop skills and retain employment in South Africa, as well as provide a platform for job creation to help alleviate poverty.
“The consumerware market is an ideal area for development, where we can, with the help of government, develop our local manufacturers and move away from our reliance on imports,” he says.
To aid initiatives such as the ‘Buy South African Stainless Steel’ campaign and promote the use of stainless steel, Sassda has also signed a MoU with the State-funded South African Supplier Development Agency, which reports to the Department of Mineral Resources.
The association has also relaunched its basic stainless steel training course and is investigating possible partnerships with tertiary institutions to implement joint programmes tailored for the stainless steel industry.
“The association realises that the industry needs skills at an artisan level, as well as nontechnical skills.
“[We also] intend to set up a committee to review all facets of training and development,” explains Kgomo.
The committee will oversee and, where necessary, revise all Sassda courses and technical information, as well as implement new courses and identify tertiary education partners.