The Post-pandemic Industrialisation Imperative

COVID-19 has intensified the challenges facing industrialisation in South Africa. As we recover from the pandemic’s economic shockwaves, we have a unique opportunity to drive sustainable and inclusive industrial development. With November ushering in Africa Industrialisation Day, now is the time to advocate for local manufacturing to lead the way out of the crisis.

Well before the pandemic, accelerating industrialisation was seen as critical to tackling unemployment, poverty and inequality. Yet across sub-Saharan Africa, value-added manufacturing has been in persistent decline for decades. More recent disruptions to industries, trade and supply chains have only exacerbated the situation. In South Africa, manufacturing production fell by 11% last year. 

Turning the challenges we now face into industrialisation opportunities is crucial for recovery. To this end, industrialisation is a key pillar in South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

Industrialisation through local manufacturing

The onus is on local manufacturers like the Beier Group, in cooperation with government and other stakeholders, to drive the industralisation agenda. This means working to build our productive capabilities, diversify our offerings and develop our domestic supply chains. It also means embracing innovation and seizing market opportunities. 

The Beier Group has long championed industrialisation through local manufacturing. The past few decades have seen the company diversify from its origins in wool into a leading supplier of products and services ranging from high-spec filtration and robust safety footwear to personal protective equipment, world-class medical devices and export-quality coated fabrics. 

“In the past decade, we have invested more than R290 million into local expansions and infrastructure because we believe that success lies in broadening our product offering and production capacity,” emphasises Beier Group CEO Wolfgang Beier. 

The group’s success has also hinged on embracing technology-driven innovation to unlock new opportunities for growth, whether it is through Beier’s advanced wound-care range or its innovative coated-fabric product developments.

Local production matters

The changes ushered in by the pandemic also offered opportunities for expansion, especially within the personal protective and medical equipment sectors. As a leading local PPE manufacturer and provider of integrated workplace safety solutions, Beier’s BBF Safety Group was ideally positioned to help South Africa meet demand for protective masks. 

By deepening a long-standing strategy of developing domestic suppliers and expanding its own capacity, the company was able to ramp up mask production and source previously imported components locally thanks to strategic supplier partnerships.

“We cannot continue to absorb imports if we want the country to reap the social and economic dividends that truly local manufacturing can bring,” notes Beier.

To stem the country’s overreliance on imports and meet its industrialisation needs, large manufacturers must commit to industry-wide efforts to improve the skills and efficiency of smaller local producers. This is why Beier invests heavily in the mentorship and training of its SMME partners. 

“Beier is not only committed to manufacturing for local markets and supporting SMMEs, but also aims to produce for the needs of global markets through increased exports,” notes Beier. “We see this time as South Africa’s opportunity to become a significant exporter.”