A series of temporary downward shocks in the metals and engineering sector such as commodity prices, merchandise trade, and demand and selling prices are now in the past. However, concerns around low business confidence, increased instability and lack of skills are still prevalent.
NEW WAGE DEAL FOR ENGINEERING WORKERS
South African unions said in November 2017 that they had agreed to a three-year wage deal for engineering workers, ending weeks of difficult negotiations and averting an industry strike. They have now agreed to a deal that is expected to see workers get a 7% increase in 2017, 6.75% in 2018 and 6.5% in 2019, the employers association South African Engineers and Founders Association (SAEFA) told Reuters. According to the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), the international benchmark of engineers per population shows that South Africa lags behind globally. South Africa has one engineer per 2 600 people compared to international norms, where one engineer serves 40 people. There are just over 16 000 registered professional engineers in the country.
TAKE UP FOR WOMEN IN ENGINEERING STILL REMAINS LOW
Although South Africa’s engineering sector is attracting women in both technical and leadership roles, the journey ahead remains a long and challenging one, especially in the defence industry.
According to statistics by South African NGO Women in Engineering (WomEng), women still make up less than 20% of all engineering graduates, with the number active in the sector even lower. This reality is alarming, considering the need for engineering in South Africa.
MICROGRIDS PROVIDES NEW ELECTRICITY ACCESS FOR AFRICA
The launch of a R25-million solar energy, lithium-ion battery storage microgrid on Robben Island – the World Heritage Site in Table Bay, Cape Town, which until recently relied on diesel to generate electricity – not only showcases the versatile advantages of microgrid technology, but also underscores the potential to use microgrids to accelerate electricity access.
In Africa, where millions are still without modern energy services, migrogrid technology is increasingly being considered as a serious remedy for addressing energy poverty in the absence of enabling grid infrastructure. In addition, commercial enterprises – from mines to shopping malls – are assessing microgrid investments as a way of lowering energy costs, diversifying sources of supply and locking in price certainty.
A MILLION MANUFACTURING JOBS TO BE CREATED OVER 10 YEARS
The Manufacturing Circle released a plan in November 2017 outlining how South Africa could create a million jobs over a ten-year period through pursuing a series of reforms designed at stimulating demand for South African manufactured products and improving the investment climate. The 48-page docuwment, which also recommends the creation of a “super-ministry”, similar to Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), was handed to Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies at a launch function hosted at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg. Davies said he “warmly welcomed” the plan, despite disagreeing with some of its recommendations.
PRASA, FRENCH RAIL AGENCY ENTER
South African parastatal Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and French national state-owned railway company SNCF, as well as the French Development Agency (AFD), have signed a tripartite financial partnership agreement amounting to R6.15-million in the form of a grant. SNCF will provide expertise, training and exchange of experiences to PRASA in an effort to strengthen PRASA’s capacity as it moves to deliver on the R59-billion contract with the Gibela Rail Transport Consortium, in which Alstom has a stake, to manufacture and supply 3 600 train cars (600 trains) at the Dunnottar Park facility, in Gauteng.