Buying local supports lekker development,

04 December 2012

Phumla WilliamsDon’t send Santa Claus half around the world this year for your festive season gifts. Keep it local and consider buying South African products in support of the local economy.

This time round stop and for a moment think about how your rand can be put to better use in growing the economy.

We often hear the phrase “buy local”, yet do we truly consider what it really means?

Buying local is more than shopping at a local business for something manufactured in South Africa; it is about keeping jobs in our country, supporting our development and building a strong, vibrant country and the perceptions of efficiency and quality that go with it.

It’s a fairly simple thing to achieve but even simple things need decisive action. In this case, it may involve such pleasurable things as drinking a wine from our very own vineyards in the Western Cape, dressing up in locally designed fashion items, and stocking up on biltong or listening to a CD of a favourite South African artist. Local has always been lekker.

By buying a locally made product from a business in your area, owned and managed by people who live and work in the community, we are investing in the broader development of our country.

Every purchase has a knock-on effect, stimulating demand for local products and services and creating, or at least safeguarding jobs.

It begins to build our industries and reduces our reliance on imports which stops money going out of the country.

If every one of us consciously buys home-grown goods and services, it becomes part of a collective effort that moves us closer towards the elimination of the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

President Jacob Zuma, addressing organised business at the annual Convention of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry in October this year, identified local procurement as one of the initiatives for building a prosperous economy.

The President told delegates:“You can take the lead with innovative investments that will build the capacity of the economy and create employment. That requires taking risks and thinking ahead of the curve, rather than just retreating into established industries and kinds of production. You can do as much as possible to support new and smaller enterprises, through mentoring, local procurement and by paying invoices on time.”

Government is encouraging South Africans to invest in the local economy by buying locally. This effort is being led by Proudly South African which held its annual Buy Local Expo in Johannesburg last week.

Proudly South African CEO Leslie Sedibe said: “By buying local you are not only creating jobs but you are contributing to the broader development of Brand South Africa; and local products are cheap because there are not extra tax costs."

Government through support initiatives such as the Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (MCEP) is promoting the ability of the local manufacturing industry to compete against imports and exporters in other markets. Sixty manufacturers have already been approved support to the value of R300 million.

The initiative also aims to retain jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Also at the expo, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies made it clear that South Africa is not out on a limb here.

He said: "We’re taking a leaf out of the books of the fast-growing emerging economies of Asia, where countries have relied on the manufacturing sector to drive economic growth and introduced strategies to raise competitiveness in their manufacturing sectors."

Buying Proudly South African products also means we do so with a clear conscience because our labour legislation ensures that locally made products are a result of fair labour practices and wages.

Further, thanks to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), South Africans have the assurance that home-grown products are of the highest quality – this dispels the misperception that they could be of inferior quality.

Government as a big buyer in the local economy is also directing its spending towards goods produced here, including services to stimulate production in the economy.

It’s a decision that is in line with other fast-growing emerging countries who are concentrating their purchasing power on local products to enhance demand and drive their economy.

Last year State-Owned Enterprises bought goods and services totalling R212,7 billion, up from R196,9 billion in the previous year. This is expected to significantly increase as government rolls out its massive infrastructure investment programme.

Moreover, through the Preferential Public Procurement Framework Act 2000 Government is committed to buy certain goods and services only if they were produced locally and has set technical specifications to assist.

These include, among others buses, power pylons, railway rolling stock, pharmaceuticals, set-top boxes for televisions, clothing, and certain food products, as well as office and school furniture.

Government, business and labour have signed a local procurement accord to increase the power of buying local. It helps directs billions of rand to local manufacturers who are at the heart of the economy.

The signatories pledged to purchase more goods and services from South African producers to an "aspirational target" of 75 per cent in an effort to enhance industrialisation and boost job creation.

The promotion of South African manufactured goods is a critical part of our growth and development strategy.

The country’s New Growth Path, the Industrial Development Policy Action Plan 2 (IPAP2) and the National Development Plan sets out the terms and requirements, for local content and skills in all new development projects.

The manufacturing sector for the automotive industry, through support from government, has become one of our success stories. Through our R15 billion investment support we will export 360 000 vehicles and R 40 billion worth of components by 2013.

As you prepare to draw up your festive season shopping list, remember the power of your rand and buy local. It will not only support our local industries but can even assist Santa lower his carbon footprint.

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)