A new initiative to encourage government and business to “buy South African” more actively has been launched. The campaign will encourage government departments, state-owned enterprises and businesses to include local content preference in tenders, and will run competitions and projects to promote local design, manufacture and competitiveness.
“South Africa First” has been launched by the South African Local Procurement Advocacy Trust, initially in the IT sector, to ensure that locally owned producers benefit from the estimated R1-billion per week “infrastructure boom” being spent on products and services.
The first IT sector members of South Africa First are Proline and Mecer, two of the largest local PC brands.
The former head of Proudly South African, Martin Feinstein, is heading the initiative along with a group of Trustees from the technology, tourism, media, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
Feinstein introduced the campaign at Govtech 2007, the government IT conference being held in Cape Town today.
Other campaign members include Phillip Dexter, former executive director of Nedlac, Danny Naidoo, an IT entrepreneur and former Microsoft SA executive, Linda Mngomezulu, chairman of Gauteng Enterprise Propeller, businesswoman Merle O’Brien and tourism specialist Sheryl Ozinsky.
“South Africa First is aimed at the government or business buyer – on the surface their decision is about which product to buy, but it is actually about which country is going to create and protect jobs as a result of that purchase,” says Feinstein.
“We’re not competitive, and never will be, in certain respects, but in other areas we need to incentivise companies to invest in training and production. Not recognizing local content is really a disincentive.”
While at Proudly South African, Feinstein succeeded in getting more than R50-million in tenders reversed or amended to allow local companies to compete fairly.
“Why is it that every laptop we see carried around our streets is in an imported laptop bag?” asks Feinstein. “Why are local PC brands seen by buyers as inferior when in fact a recent study showed their failure rate was far lower than some big global brands? Why are companies who invest in taking unskilled packers, and turn them into technicians who assemble local PCs, not recognised for this in government contracts?”
Feinstein says the campaign wants to action what business, government and organized labour agreed at a Nedlac national sector summit in 2002, where they agreed to actively support local IT content through a new procurement code.
“We’re five years on, and we don’t see a code. We’d like to see that code become a reality. But it’s not just about that, it’s also about actively fostering local innovation, creativity and suppliers – even if it’s for simple things like laptop bags.”