Concrete industry urged to stand together to lobby government

03 August 2018

AfriSam sales and marketing executive Richard Tomes has urged the concrete industry to seriously consider consolidation and collaboration amid a tough operating environment.

“Often the private sector is critical about government when we are confronted with the challenges of our industry; however, industry bodies such as the South African Ready Mix Association (Sarma), which communicate with policymakers, struggle to get members to sign up,” he noted during his keynote address at The Concrete Conference.

Industry members do not want to fund these bodies, he said, but pointed out that the CMA works to lobby government on issues such as the carbon tax and the air pollution act. The Concrete Institute, meanwhile, supports research and education to the value of more than R3-million a year.

Tomes noted the steel industry has made great strides in lobbying government and ensuring that the industry is competitive in a fair manner. “We [the concrete industry] are not even able to talk about cement dumping that happens on our coast, or agree on whether government should impose tariffs at our ports. We do not speak with one voice.”

He added that it is necessary to lobby government about infrastructure spend, which has been proven to be challenging in the concrete industry. Moreover, Tomes warned that, if the industry does not get its act together, infrastructure could collapse, as has happened in the Sedibeng municipality, where sewage infrastructurehas given way.

He said AfriSam is the only registered cement-industry member of Sarma, which Tomes said is not sustainable. Meanwhile, economist Dr Roelof Botha told delegates at the conference of the challenges threatening the wellbeing of the construction, and the concrete, industry. Land expropriation without compensation has the potential to negatively impact on foreign direct investment and, therefore, the construction and infrastructure sectors in South Africa.

It could threaten food security, and not only for South Africa, since SA exports R126-billion of agricultural products a year to other African countries.

And this while a South African Institute of Race RelationsAssociation survey conducted on 50 000 participants from South Africa and 35 other African countries found that only 1% of participants regard land reform as a policy priority of government. The most important issues recorded in the survey were around unemployment, health, schooling, roadswater supply and electricity. Botha said policymakers are not giving mind to the people’s needs with the land reform issue and the construction industry will suffer as a result when fewer projects are invested in owing to property ownership uncertainties. 

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