Since the beginning of the Covid-19 program, the local government body responsible for regulating and managing Durban has been the primary force behind the expansion of the manufacturing industry. Many start-ups it has helped are at the point where they can scale.
In the opinion of Takalani Rathiyaya, who serves as the head of the economic development programs department at the eThekwini Municipality, the city’s primary focus should be on encouraging the expansion of its manufacturing sector.
Because of these things, national, provincial, and local governments all agree that manufacturing is a great way to create jobs, and eThekwini has made developing the sector a top priority to keep up with this plan.
Even though our industrial recovery plan has only been in place for a couple of years, we are already seeing the first signs of how it can be used to create high-paying jobs, help local businesses grow upstream, and help both formal and informal workers benefit from the multiplier effect.
The manufacturing sector in eThekwini has been around for a long time, and the KwaZulu-Natal province is the second largest in South Africa, with 21% of the manufacturing GDP coming from there.
The industry is also a significant contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the eThekwini Municipality and was responsible for 4.9% of the city’s growth in 2021. Manufacturing, finance, business, and commerce accounted for 73% of this growth.
According to Rathiyaya, “the manufacturing sector is responsible for twenty percent of the employment opportunities in eThekwini, which equates to one hundred sixty-six thousand jobs, of which eighty-three percent are semi-skilled.”Nevertheless, the city’s unemployment rate is currently at 26 percent; as a result, we are working to increase the competitiveness of our manufacturing sector through various programs to create desirable and lucrative jobs.
In the past five years, eThekwini has set up and continues to support four active manufacturing clusters with more than 200 member firms. These clusters help the city reach its goals.
By conducting an in-depth study with the companies that make up the clusters Rathiyaya says, “We have been able to figure out what the biggest problems are for local manufacturers.”
We have had some major successes that have supported the growth of manufacturing and the creation of new jobs. These successes were achieved by creating interventions that directly impact the development of skills and SMEs, sharing the best practices from around the world, and promoting transformation through leadership development.
The cluster-specific business accelerators have been a key part of the plan. Through these programs, 45 small and medium-sized businesses owned by black people have signed contracts with leading manufacturers. This has opened up new markets worth R3.6 million and created 250 new jobs.
Based on how well our business accelerators have worked, we are making big changes so that by 2025, we can help 2,000 SMEs and have set up 200 new business deals with the formal manufacturing sector, Rathiyaya says.
The clusters have also worked to improve the skills of the city’s young people.
We have designed a wide variety of skill development programs, in conjunction with the businesses already members of our organization, to encourage new people to enter the industry. We are successfully establishing a pipeline of new talent by keeping more than 400 students engaged in these skills-specific courses.
According to Rathiyaya, the success of these programs has led to the industrial clusters planning to train 1,500 new employees over the next three years, even though they only have the resources they now have available.
He goes on to state that, in addition to their efforts in skill development and transformation, the clusters should be applauded for their considerable efforts to introduce worldwide best practices to local communities.
Advanced technologies have been developed to help our member companies identify their weaknesses through benchmarking so they can improve productivity using world-class manufacturing best practices, allowing them to compete in the global marketplace.
Because of all of these efforts, the manufacturing Clusters are now producing results that can be scaled up. “Rathiyaya concludes that “there is nonetheless still more that has to be done to ensure that the sector delivers on its responsibilities to offer the City long-term economic stability and employment development.”