All key players – comprising car manufacturers and
suppliers, government and organised labour – will again meet next Wednesday to
build on the discussions held last week. The key focus areas are logistics,
skills development, research and development, automotive tooling, and supplier
development, incubation and localisation.
Delegates attending the
three-day automotive cluster planning process last week heard that Eastern Cape
remained on the periphery of the South African economy. This is reflected in the
logistics system, which has not sufficiently addressed connectivity of the
region to the national economy and continues to constrain efforts to improve
competitiveness as well as attracting investment. This connectivity is critical
for the fortunes of the entire Eastern Cape economy, not only the automotive
The connectivity of the region relates to three critical
corridors – Port Elizabeth-Gauteng; East London-Gauteng and East London and Port
The initiative aims to develop a vision for the automotive
cluster and to drive appropriate programmes which address the challenges facing
The Eastern Cape is home to four of the country’s car
manufacturers: General Motors, Volkswagen SA, Mercedes Benz SA and Ford SA.
“The strategic engagements were extremely positive for establishing a
local automotive cluster with some caution raised about the mix in the roles of
the public and private sectors. Consensus though was that most of the cluster
programmes needed to be driven directly by and through the automotive sector
itself with the public sector playing a key enabling and support role.
“Cluster initiatives fail or succeed based on the levels of trust that
they can generate between the participating parties. And gauging from the
initial strategic engagements there is sufficient trust to move forward and
institutionalise a local cluster support initiative in the Eastern Cape,” said
Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Mcebisi Jonas.
There was also support for exploring cluster level skills programmes
through which to raise the skills capabilities across the entire sector and
hence enable the upgrading of local firms into higher rungs within the global
automotive value chain.
The official launch of the initiative is
expected towards the end of March.