Exports councils are key drivers for South African economic transformation
The Deputy Director-General for Trade and Investment South Africa at the Department of Trade and Industry, Ms Lerato Mataboge, says export councils are key drivers for South Africa’s economic transformation and that they should be supported and prioritised.
Mataboge was addressing the two-day Export Council Quarterly Meeting that was held at the dti campus in Sunnyside, Pretoria on 20-21 August 2018.
“As government, we need to look at our efficiencies in so far as how we are structured, and the support that is provided to export councils and vice versa. We also need to determine if we are really working cohesively and supporting each other in accessing new markets, determining the strategy for which markets are a priority for the country, and determining which companies and exporters are in need of what kind of support.
“This is the role that we as government and export councils jointly play because that is where transformation is going to happen,” said Mataboge.
According to Mataboge, there is a need to find a way for export councils to coordinate better amongst themselves by looking at the clustering approach in order to make sure that they drive the economic strategy of the country. She said the clusters would enable the government and export councils to have an impact on the continent, in the BRICS economies, and the broader global market.
“Export Councils together with the dti need to find a niche in order to have a say in the Presidential R100 billion investment drive because investments and exports are intertwined. We also have to have a relook at the Integrated National Export Strategy in light of the 6% per annum export target that the National Development Plan has set for us.
“We need to reflect and see what contribution are we making to enable us to reach that target and also to make sure that we take a step back and look at the institutional arrangements that we have and whether or not they are assisting in driving our export agenda,” she said.
Mataboge added that there was a need to discuss the recommendation of the Integrated National Export Strategy, and consider having a National Export Act that will pull together all the elements that speak to exports and the role of the export councils.
Export councils are an integral part of government’s plan to grow exports, diversify product offerings, broaden markets and develop exporters through the mobilisation of black-, women- and youth-owned enterprises, as well as emerging exporters.
Government commits to increase export council funding
The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) has committed to increasing the funding of the export councils in order to drive the transformation agenda in different sectors. The commitment emanated from the export councils meeting hosted by the dti’s Director-General, Mr Lionel October in Pretoria.
October said it was important to increase the funding in order to meet export targets and also to attach the conditionality of transformation to address the imbalances in different sectors.
“Transformation of different industries is very important and that is going to be the pre-condition of funding for all export councils to commit to transformation and to grow the economy through exports. export councils’ knowledge of industries and global markets is invaluable and it can never be replicated without decisive interventions, but what is important is to pass the knowledge on to the new players and have succession plans in order to transfer knowledge and skills,” said October.
October urged the councils to set targets for transformation and work towards them expeditiously. He said they could also set targets in their councils, in terms of staff complement, companies they procure goods from, and work towards having their own Black Economic Empowerment Export Councils’ Scorecard.
Speaking after the meeting, the representative of the South African Electro-Technical Export Council, Ms Chiboni Evans, said the key thing about this engagement with the dti was that it brought all export councils together not just to air any issues but to actually discuss constructively with the department on delivering on the country’s export agenda and targets.
She said the discussions will help the export councils to also understand from the government’s perspective what is it that was needed from them, and in turn communicate to the government what they need in terms of support in different sectors of the economy.
“The biggest commitment we received out of our engagement is the fact that our funding will be increased. Obviously the finalising of the quantum and how is it going to work needs to be finalised internally. But what was also important is that the Director-General insisted that we will not just get funding from government, but we also need to give something back from the private sector,” said Evans.
Evans added that as export councils, they all agree that issues around transformation are very important and commitments needs to be shown from both parties to make sure it happens in all sectors.