The Metals & Engineering Indaba is where common and uncommon interests meet

The Metals and Engineering sector is vast. The following sub-industries form part of it:

  • Basic iron and steel products; 
  • Non-ferrous metal products;
  • Structural Metal Products;
  • Fabricated Metal products;
  • General Purpose Machinery;
  • Household Appliances;
  • Electrical machinery and apparatus;
  • Bodies for motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers; 
  • Parts and accessories;
  • Transport Equipment; and
  • Rubber and Plastic Products.

The scope of the industry is vast. The interests are diverse. The skills required are mind-bendingly specialized and technology stands on the cusp of revolutionary and foundational change. This range is reflected in the 21 different industry associations which make up this sector and which are affiliated to the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA). These are:

  1. Association of Electric Cable Manufacturers of SA (AECMSA);
  2. Association of Metal Service Centres of SA (AMSC);
  3. Cape Engineers’ and Founders’ Association (CEFA);
  4. Constructional Engineering Association (CEA), which incorporates the Temporary Employment Services Division (TESD);
  5. Eastern Cape Engineering and Allied Industries Association (ECEAIA);
  6. Electrical Engineering and Allied Industries’ Association (EEAIA);
  7. Electrical Manufacturers’ Association of SA (EMASA);
  8. Gate and Fence Association (GAFA);
  9. Hand Tool Manufacturers’ Association (HATMA);
  10. Hot Dip Galvanizers Association Southern Africa (HDGASA);
  11. Iron and Steel Producers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA);
  12. KwaZulu-Natal Engineering Industries’ Association (KZNEIA);
  13. Lift Engineering Association of SA (LEA);
  14. Light Engineering Industries’ Association of SA (LEIA);
  15. Non-Ferrous Metal Industries’ Association of South Africa (NFMIA);
  16. Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Manufacturers’ and Suppliers’ Association (RAMSA);
  17. SA Electroplating Industries’ Association (SAEPIA);
  18. SA Pump Manufacturers’ Association (SAPMA);
  19. SA Reinforced Concrete Engineers’ Association (SARCEA);
  20. SA Valve and Actuators Manufacturers’ Association (SAVAMA); and
  21. South African Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Contractors’ Association (SARACCA).

SEIFSA’s Vision and Mission, which greet visitors arriving at the Federation’s office in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, are:

To promote sustainable metals and engineering industries to ensure that they are strategically positioned for innovation and growth in the interests of a prospering South Africa. 

To be Southern Africa’s most respected advocate for the metals and engineering industries in order to create innovative businesses positioned for growth and working in partnership with all stakeholders in the in the interests of Southern Africa. 

To foster mutually-beneficial relations between employers and labour in the industries and to help members develop their human capital to realise their full potential.”

Words such as “Innovation”, “Growth”, “Labour”, “Businesses”, “Employers” and Human Capital” stand out. Once more, the realization dawns upon those who may be new to this sector that the challenge is a colossal one. It becomes apparent that this is no ordinary sector or “industries”. The metals and engineering super-sector is the silent driving-force behind so many other industries which hog the headlines – which include mining, automotive manufacturing and construction. In fact, the metals and engineering sector can be seen as the heartbeat of the South African economy.

Whilst the sheer size and influence of this super-sector is impressive, in reality the sector has faced extremely serious economic challenges since the economic recession in 2008. 

Serious Issues Need an Influential Platform

Forbes magazine quoted Facebook’s Vice President of Platform and Marketplace, who said: “Platforms are built to allow multiple groups to create and sustain long-term relationships and jointly serve people together.”  

Going back to SEIFSA’s Vision and Mission, the line “working with all stakeholders in the interest of Southern Africa” underscores the importance of creating and sustaining long-term relationships and jointly servicing people together. This is the essence of the Metals and Engineering Indaba which marks its sixth year of existence in 2020.

The word “Indaba” has been popularised in Southern Africa in the last 20 years. The Wikipedia explanation of the word “Indaba” demonstrates that the word Indaba has “gone international”. Wikipedia quotes the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as saying: “In traditional African culture, people get together to sort out the problems that affect them all, where everyone has a voice and where there is an attempt to find a common mind or a common story that everyone is able to tell when they go away from it.” 

At the Metals and Engineering Indaba, everyone “has a voice”. The M&E Indaba, as it is called in short, attempts to find solutions based on common ground. SEIFSA, which organizes the annual conference, makes a conscious effort to get representation from Labour, Government and Business – to discuss opportunities and challenges to the metals and engineering industries. SEIFSA Chief Executive Officer Kaizer Nyatsumba says: “We believe very firmly that business alone does not have all the answers, that labour alone does not have all the answers, and that the Government alone does not have all the answers. Although SEIFSA is the organiser of this conference, this is an annual Industry Indaba.”

Permeating the programme of the M&E Indaba are exactly the themes found in the SEIFSA Vision and Mission, namely “Innovation”, “Growth”, “Labour”, “Businesses”, “Employers” and Human Capital”. Past programme highlights were:

  • Working together to Improve South Africa’s Sovereign Credit Rating;
  • The National Development Plan;
  • The African Continental Free Trade Area;
  • Linkages between the Metals and Engineering and the Mining, Construction and Automotive sectors;
  • Innovation and Excellence – Strategic Levels of Global Competitiveness;
  • The state of South African Manufacturing;
  • Administered Prices – Logistic Costs, Electricity, Port Tariffs;
  • South Africa’s political parties; and
  • Radical Economic Transformation and the Metals and Engineering Industry.

The Metals and Engineering Indaba is an opportunity for an intellectual break-away which will inform strategic decisions by CEOs, Managing Directors, General Managers, who will be able to create relationships with other companies facing similar issues – even if they are competitors. They will be able to engage speakers who range from Economists to Senior Government Officials such as Cabinet Ministers, Directors-General, Chief Directors and Directors. The Indaba is an opportunity to hear directly from those who occupy the desks and buildings in Pretoria, to engage with them, to demand transparency and to conclude partnerships. These engagements and conversations happen in a neutral environment where every stakeholder matters. 

For SEIFSA, this is the essence of promoting industry stewardship: conversations which begin at the annual Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba often carry through and affect real-world changes in the industry and are critical to the health of the South African economy.

The programme and pricing for the 2020 Metals and Engineering Indaba can be found at the events website at this link.