Johannesburg, Jul 26 (PTI) South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel has highlighted a slew of measures to grow jobs and production in critical industries post the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the economy.
Patel, while presenting his department’s budget vote in Parliament, outlined the actions taken to protect the key sectors.
“Together with the leaders of business and labour, we have forged consensus on the masterplans in four sectors - auto production, clothing and textiles, poultry, and sugar,” Patel told Parliament on Friday.
From July last year, the South African Revenue Services has seized 550 shipping containers of illegally-imported and undervalued clothing and footwear, to protect local industries and entrepreneurs, he said.
“In February this year, we increased tariff protection for poultry farmers against unfair foreign competition, protecting the local industry and local jobs,” Patel said.
In March, local retailers committed to buy 80 per cent of their sugar locally over the next year, growing further in future years, whilst local farmers and millers agreed to price restraint in this period, the minister said, adding that the automotive industry in the country has performed exceptionally well.
“We reached a new record of almost 390,000 locally-made cars that we exported to the rest of the world. Thousands of jobs were sustained in the making of those cars in factories in Uitenhage, Nelson Mandela Bay, eThekwini, Buffalo City and Pretoria,” he said.
An agreement has been reached with the UK to maintain access for South African products in its market after Brexit and the country has also worked hard to build the African Continental Free Trade Area as the foundation for a long-term growth, the minister said.
“South Africa is well-positioned to become a major supplier of industrial goods and value-added services to the continent,” he said.
Patel said that COVID-19 has exposed the fragility in the global economy.
“To prepare for the post-COVID world, we will strengthen efforts around reconstruction and recovery, including broader pacts with workers and businesses, focused on saving many firms and jobs; identifying new opportunities; embracing digital technologies to recover and change; and addressing economic inclusion with greater urgency,” he said.
The quest for competitiveness must be balanced with the need to nurture economic resilience, the ability of economies to respond to risks that an open and integrated world present; be they to digital systems, or from climate change, or to food security or the spillover of trade wars raging elsewhere, or indeed from pandemics, Patel said.
“History suggests that from the greatest human crises, the greatest human advances can be made.
“So, in the darkest hour, we must prepare for a brighter future – at the heart of which must lie a new economy – fit for future purpose, fair and just, sustainable and resilient so that future shocks can be absorbed,” the minister added. PTI FH CPS