Patel: Focus is on black industrial growth

Cape Town - The focus of the economic development department is on growing black ownership of new industry in South Africa and using state funding to grow the work of black entrepreneurs, says Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.

"The reality is if you look at South Africa, industry is the productive sector... black South Africans are unrepresented there," Patel told journalists at a media briefing among business stands representing textile, clothing and food manufacturing operations in the Old Assembly of Parliament.

He acknowledged that "the state can't make an industrialist", it could play a supportive role by providing the resources to allow people "with enterprise" to develop their own industrial activity.

With the help of state agencies like the Industrial Development Corporation, medium sized enterprises would be assisted. "We want to scale (them) up," he said, noting that this could be done by gaining access to funding from "an IDC facility".

New entrants needed to provide a good business plan for a new industrial business. "The emphasis is on growth and expansion," he said.

Tariff interventions

He said that government could play a role in supporting industry in South Africa by raising tariffs but the industrialists also needed to come to the party by making commitments to train workers and create jobs.

"If government increases tariffs (tariff barriers), industry must increase (local) investment," said Patel.

He warned however, that there should not be a reliance on tariff interventions - such as raised tariffs on imported goods or reduced tariffs on those imported goods required as part of a locally produced product. "If you only rely on tariffs (tariff protection) you will not be able to stand on your own when tariffs are reduced."

He said the competition commission would be launching an inquiry into the parts of the retail sector to ascertain how to bring "more black South Africans" into the sector.

It would examine "among other things...the tenancy arrangements in shopping malls, the growth of township enterprises ... spaza shops and so on," he said, noting that the aim was to have a competitive and inclusive retail sector.

He said that there was already a market inquiry into the cost of private health care. There would be public hearings to elicit attitudes on the cost of private health care this year.


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