Green Shoots for eThekwini’s Manufacturing Sector

eThekwini’s manufacturing Clusters unlock growth and deliver jobs 

Since the onset of the pandemic, eThekwini Municipality has been driving the development of the manufacturing sector and now, many of the initiatives are ready to scale and are delivering positive results.

According to Takalani Rathiyaya, Head of the Economic Development Programmes Department at the eThekwini Municipality, supporting the growth of manufacturing is a strategic priority for the City. He says the link between manufacturing and economic growth is critical as manufacturing investments create jobs and inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

“For these reasons, manufacturing has been acknowledged as a powerful employment creator by national, provincial and local government and following this agenda, eThekwini has prioritised the development of the sector,” Takalani explains. “Though we are only a couple of years into our industrial recovery plan, we are seeing the first green shoots in harnessing the industry’s potential to create high-income jobs, boost upstream development of local businesses as well as benefit from the multiplier effect for both formal and informal workers.”

The eThekwini manufacturing sector is well established and KwaZulu Natal is in fact the second largest manufacturing presence in South Africa, contributing 21% to the national manufacturing GDP. The industry is also a force within the eThekwini Municipality GDP and contributed to the City’s 4.9% growth in 2021 – 73% of which came from manufacturing, finance, business and trade.

“Manufacturing is responsible for 20% of the employment opportunities in eThekwini which translates to 176 000 jobs of which 83% are semi-skilled,” says Takalani. “Unemployment in the City is however sitting at 26% so, through various initiatives, we are striving to deepen the competitiveness of our manufacturing sector to create attractive and high-paying jobs.”

To help deliver its goals, eThekwini has over the past five years established and continues to support four active manufacturing clusters that collectively have over 200 member firms.

Through the Durban Chemicals Cluster, Durban Automotive Cluster, KZN Clothing and Textiles Cluster and the eThekwini Furniture Cluster, the Municipality is supporting a variety of initiatives that are proving to be powerful levers to unlock manufacturing growth. “Through extensive research with the member companies in the clusters, we have been able to identify the key challenges faced by local manufacturers,” says Takalani. “By creating interventions that directly impact Skills and SME development, the sharing of international best practices and promoting transformation through leadership development, we have had some major wins that have supported manufacturing growth and job creation.”

A flagship initiative has been the cluster-specific Business Accelerators. Through these Programmes, a total of 45 black-owned SMEs have established commercial agreements with leading manufacturers, delivering R3,6 million new market opportunities and 250 new jobs.

“Based on the success of our Business Accelerators, we are making step changes so that by 2025 we will be supporting 2 000 SMEs and will have enabled 200 new commercial agreements with the formal manufacturing sector,” Takalani adds.

Another area where the Clusters have been active is in the upskilling of the City’s youth.

“In collaboration with our member companies, we have developed numerous Skills Development programmes to attract new entrants to the sector. With over 400 learners busy with these skills-specific courses, we are successfully creating a pipeline of new talent,” Takalani adds.

Takalani says that due to the popularity of these programmes, the manufacturing Clusters with their current resources are set to train 1 500 learners over the next three years.

Takalani goes on to say that in addition to the work being done in Skills Development and Transformation, the Clusters are to be commended for the extensive work that’s been done to bring international best practices to local companies. He explains: “Advanced technologies have been developed to help our member companies identify their weaknesses through benchmarking so they can improve productivity using world-class manufacturing best practices, giving them the opportunity to compete in the global marketplace.”

As a result of all these initiatives, the manufacturing Clusters are now delivering scalable results. “There is, however, still more to be done to ensure that the sector delivers on its role to provide the City with long-term economic stability and job creation,” Takalani concludes.