The government is positive about a R100-million programme to grow the number of black industrialists. The programme was launched because BEE transformation had been slow.

 Manufacturing_Indaba_Mzwandile_Masina_article Mzwandile Masina said that they do not want to wipe out white industrialists, but the government wants more black industrialists. (Images: Manufacturing Indaba)


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Melissa Javan

A target of R100-billion had been set to support black industrialists, Mzwandile Masina, the deputy minister of trade and industry said yesterday. He was speaking on the second day of the Manufacturing Indaba, an annual event that was held at Emperors Palace in Ekurhuleni on 29 and 30 June this year.

The goal of the indaba is to create a platform for business owners, industry leaders, government officials, capital providers, experts and professionals to discuss challenges and to brainstorm solutions. The theme this year was "Localisation and the growth of an advanced manufacturing economy".

Masina said that although there were programmes for black economic empowerment (BEE), some BEE partners had not benefited the economy as a whole. "Currently there is a slow progress in the transformation process. There is no benefit to the economy," Masina said. "They have not really assisted to change fundamentally.

"We had to think about how in a different programme we were going to commit to black industrialists."

Given this, the state had decided to get involved to help industrialists, Masina said.

Economic transformation

The Black Industrialists Programme was launched in August 2014 in Johannesburg, according to the Department of Trade and Industry. "The programme aims to create a hundred black industrialists in the next three years, who will participate in the productive sectors of the economy as part of [the] government's radical economic transformation programme," the department said.

Masina said the government was determined to deliver the Black Industrialists Programme "with all those who understand the importance of addressing inequality within the South African economy".

"Through this programme, we want to address the issue of inequality within the economy and inclusion of black entrepreneurs in the economy, particularly the productive sector of the economy. We are already establishing relationships with suppliers and banks are starting to approach us."

South African Airways, in support of the objectives of the Blacks Industrialists Programme, has committed R10-billion of its procurement budget for goods and services from black industrialists.

Masina said fronting and misrepresentation would not be tolerated. To address this, the government would look into activating compliance courts. He also emphasized that the programme was a national one, not for Gauteng alone.

In terms of ethics, he added, the government would ensure broader stakeholder consultation that would be a public process.

The Black Industrialists Programme was one of the interventions by the government to transform the economy and "needs to be supported". He stressed, however, that the intention was not to "wipe out the white industrialists. We just want to add up the black industrialists… We have a Constitution that addresses all of us."

Companies should have conversations that started with the question of how they were going to transform their own entities. "It calls for all of us to bring change in our enterprises."

 Manufacturing_Indaba_Charles_Wessner_article Charles Wessner said that South Africans should invest in innovation to grow.

Innovation and collaboration

There were about 500 delegates and 65 speakers at the Manufacturing Indaba. Dr Charles Wessner, one of the speakers, stressed the importance of innovation. Wessner teaches global innovation policy at Georgetown University in the US and is a strong advocate of effective innovation policies.

There was a need to talk about national independence, he said. "For South Africa to be independent, it needs to be competent… It has to grow. In order for that to happen, innovation is needed."

Wessner described innovation as not only something that took place in laboratories. "It's not only something that will happen, because the government says it will."

Innovation was not necessarily new. "But it can be new to your country, your environment or even you company itself." It was also possible to copy someone else's way of doing things, because "there are a lot of ways to [build a] bridge". "It's investing in basic research."

None of the delegates were the enemy, he said, stressing the need for collaboration between companies. "You are all collaborators."

His message was that success took hard work, although he also spoke of the need for investing in training. "If you want to play in the big leagues, but you don't want to pay for things like training, you are going to lose."

In addition, companies needed consistency and effort – "You need change."

His advice in collaborating in innovation included that companies should be clear and realistic in partnership practice. "The importance of learning from others is overstated, because we are trying to partner with others."