The “local is lekker” slogan has been around for some time. The current pandemic-induced predicament has, however, made it even more crucial for South Africans – the general public and all organisations – to support local products

For some time now, even before the Covid-19 crisis, the government has been encouraging the nation to buy local to assist in job creation and infuse the economy with positive growth and energy. With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, this has become not only more important, but also sometimes the only option.

Globally, this may become the norm for the foreseeable future – already countries are looking at “re-shoring” their manufacturing efforts to mitigate the risks that globalisation has brought.

It’s not the first time that South Africa has faced a need to reverse the negative impact of imports, albeit for different reasons.

In the late 1980s South Africa’s footwear manufacturing was booming, with 900 factories servicing the market. But then the first wave of cheaply made Chinese imports arrived, ushering in a flood that would decimate the industry, reducing this number to a mere 130 factories today.

This number is likely to decrease post-Covid-19.

By 2003 local companies were desperate for a solution. Homegrown safety footwear leaders Bagshaw Footwear, Beier Safety Footwear, Frams and Wayne found themselves locked in battle not only for survival in the face of imported products, but also amongst themselves.
Collaboration was the only solution to defend the local safety-footwear manufacturing industry. This resulted in a merger that brought about the formation of the BBF Safety Group, the largest manufacturer of safety footwear on the continent.

For many years, BBF Safety Group’s mission has been to ensure economic empowerment, transformation and development in South Africa – and it has forged numerous mutually beneficial partnerships with local small, medium and micro enterprises to create a network of highly committed, professional and efficient suppliers.

“Protecting and creating jobs is imperative – we operate from a base of looking after our own communities,” explains Silvio Ceriani, chief executive officer of the BBF Safety Group. “If we do not change our consumer-buying habits now, in line with locally manufactured products, we will all have some role to play in the unemployment figures. Now, more than ever, we have to put our people first.”

Recently, BBF Safety Group experienced an import issue with the production of their personal protective equipment masks – which, although manufactured using mainly local materials, required two specific components to be imported.

To counter this and to drive localisation, the Group turned their attention to local manufacturers with the potential to deliver on these components. Through incentives and support offered by the government, a local supplier adapted their production to meet the specifications required in the essential filtration component, which is now being manufactured locally. (Read more about this on page 10 of SHEQ MANAGEMENT Issue 2.)

“We are proud of our team who worked with other South African companies to deliver on solutions that benefit us all as a country,” Ceriani says. “It is testimony to the talent within our country and the potential we have to source and innovate locally – defending and, if supported, creating local jobs. It’s a great accomplishment.”

In the coming weeks and months, as South Africa experiences the different levels of lockdown – and a slow easing of restrictions on trade and movement – we can expect to see more and more innovation from companies.

South Africa, her people and her businesses must stand together to ensure that the changes wrought by this pandemic are positive and effectively give the economy the boost it so desperately needs.

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