Rob Davies. Picture: GCIS
Rob Davies. Picture: GCIS

The slowdown in manufacturing is not going to slow down the government-backed black industrialist funding scheme, says trade & industry minister Rob Davies.

The programme, which is meant to encourage participation of black investors in manufacturing and the mainstream economy, has so far resulted in investment of R11.1bn from 128 projects.

"That the economy is not performing does not mean that we can afford to hold back on an essential programmes like this.

"The black industrialist programme will be supporting a range of small and medium businesses in the manufacturing space," he said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the inaugural black industrialists roundtable dialogue in Pretoria, Davies said the businesses that the programme had supported so far made progress despite the depressed economy and the poor state of manufacturing.

Davies was hopeful of a turnaround in the economy, saying the stimulus package that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in September would yield positive results.

"Some of the regulatory issues have already been addressed. That places us in a better place to weather the storm. But ultimately, [the programme] is about addressing structural transformation in the economy — more industrialisation and increased participation by black companies," he said.

Davies said the steel and aluminium tariffs that the US had imposed on local products would affect local companies. "We made continuous representations on that issue and so far we have not seen any joy out of this. So as this carries on, this will impact increasingly on the performance of global trade."

He said there had been a deterioration of multilateralism, or the pursuit of a common goal by multiple countries.

"Right now it is only about ‘I will only fight for my own corner, you must fight for yours’. We are in danger of going back to the full-on power relations in the global economy," he said.

But regional integration could counter the contaminated international trade environment. "The regional integration process is all about developing the size of a regional economy that will allow the emergence of regional value chains and allow us to start producing in Africa more higher value-added products. That is where industrialisation comes in," Davies said.