Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) CEO, Paolo Trinchero, says that even though the steel construction industry is currently under significant pressure, the SAISC is certainly not pessimistic about the future. “On the contrary,” Trinchero says. “Our view is that when the ‘going gets tough the tough get going’ and, to this end, in order to consolidate the efforts of industry associations and to optimise their effectiveness, we have both created new associations and absorbed others. The result is that the SAISC group now includes ten associations which will work together to help their members grow their businesses and to continue lobbying for them on the plethora of important issues in the relevant government forums and others,” Trinchero says.
The institutions which are now part of the SAISC are: Southern African Light Steel Building Association (SASFA), Southern African Metal Cladding and Roofing Association (SAMCRA), Powerline Association of Southern Africa (POLASA), Association of Steel Tube and Pipe Manufacturers (ASTPM), Steel Window and Door Association of South Africa (SWADASA), and Southern African Racking and Shelving Association – which is currently being set up – (SARASA), S.A. International Steel Fabricators (ISF), Steel Tube Export Association of South Africa (STEASA), and the Association of Structural Steel Draughtsmen (ASSD).
Trinchero says that there is no doubt that the “economies of scale” principle is most apt in these circumstances. “Instead of each of these associations working on its own in an industry where there are many significant challenges, we will all be able to pull together our resources and make sure that we accomplish what has to be done in order to help our industry reach its full potential over the years. There is certainly an economic advantage by working under one roof but the main advantage will be the pooling of the brain power of experienced and dedicated people who have the industry at heart and the knowledge to ensure that we are the best that we can be in terms of beefing up the skills of the steel construction industry in southern Africa”.
Trinchero says the most important issue facing the steel construction industry today is the lack of meaningful projects. “This has been our ‘war cry’ for some time and we continue to emphasise the critical importance of releasing projects in terms of the National Development Plan (NDP) and, from a macro political perspective creating confidence to encourage investment in South Africa.”
He adds that as a collective, the steel construction industry must, and will, continue to lobby the relevant institutions to ensure that more projects come on stream and that there is a more level playing field in terms of import pricing, which is obviously a crucial element to the success of the local industry.
Trinchero says the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) is currently processing import tariff amendments to various steel products which are aimed at reducing the flood of imports into South Africa and levelling the playing fields to some extent. “We are currently embarking on an exercise to provide a full view of our industry to ensure that we have some balance. For example on fabricated structural steel we may have an import tariff on input material of 10% which is balanced by an import tariff on finished goods of 15%. A survey has been sent out in collaboration with the South African Iron and Steel Institute (SAISI), Manufacturing Circle and the Steel and Engineering Industry’s Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA), which will give us an excellent idea of how the industry relates to an initiative of this order,” Trinchero says.
He adds that the SAISC is encouraged by the excellent work of POLASA as we now have a much broader range of products designated in the transmission line industry. In the same vein ‘Fabricated Structural Steel’ is due for sign-off in a few weeks from date of publication of this article, which will give our industry a much improved opportunity to participate in government projects,” Trinchero says.
He warns however that while designation and localisation are very important concepts they must not create a sense of apathy in our industry. “We must ensure that each and every one of us is competitive in the global sense as putting structures in place that will help in localisation will never take the place of our being able to compete in the global context,” says Trinchero. “We are of the opinion that our newly structured SAISC will be in the position to help our industry to become more competitive and we invite all those who are keen to make a go of it as the world opens up to us, to make sure that they use the quite unique resources offered by this re-engineered and expanded Institute,” he concluded.