Revitalising the domestic steel industry is not only possible, it is essential if the economy is to regain a growth trajectory and create jobs.
However, the steel industry in South Africa has been in steep decline since 2010. There are a number of reasons for this, among them a dramatic increase in the amount of cheap imported steel – an increase of 250% between 2000 and 2016, mostly from China, which led to the imposition of tariffs to protect our primary producer (largely). This has led to a reduction of imported steel but imported finished goods are still being brought in, at the expense of the local manufacturing sector.
Another major factor is the weakness of the South African economy itself. This weakness is based on multiple factors, including poor infrastructure, under-performing state-owned enterprises, ineffective labour legislation and a calamitously dysfunctional educational system — not forgetting the impact of corruption. All of these factors drive negative sentiment, further perpetuating a downward spiral. These are obviously hugely complex issues, and it is a cause for optimism that business as a whole is working together with Government to play its part in resolving them.