13 March 2023

The automotive industry’s very survival is dependent on the emergence of new, unexpected disruptors – which is precisely why the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) is launching the Automotive SMME Innovation Awards.

The sector is facing an ever-evolving global market: post Covid-19, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has transformed the economic environment; consumers have adjusted to a “new normal” and altered their buying habits; and even business models have had to change.

“We need to turn to disruptive technologies to address the issues the sector is facing, such as technology shifts, changes in consumer behaviour and cross-sector convergences,” says the CEO of TASEZ, Dr Bheki Zulu.

TASEZ, based in the manufacturing hub of Silverton in Tshwane, is Africa’s first automotive city, offering its tenants a cost effective location, advance technological support, access to skilled labour, a strong consumer base, and connectivity to both suppliers and regional and international markets.

Preparing for the future

The automotive industry is now re-considering new talent management strategies that will disrupt the industry and identify new capabilities that will enable our success and competitive advantage in our “new normal”, says Dr Zulu.

What this means is that the leaders and employees of tomorrow must be prepared today. Many of these people are to be found in the country’s emerging small, medium, and micro enterprises, who are often the drivers of local economic developments. In his 2023 State of the Nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa noted that “a growing economy must also be an increasingly inclusive economy. Growth and the creation of jobs in our economy will be driven by small and medium-sized enterprises, co-operatives, and informal businesses.”

TASEZ has an important role to play in growing the automotive industry. Its mandate is to promote integration with local industry; increase value-added production; broaden economic participation by promoting small, medium, and micro enterprises and co-operatives; and promoting skills and technology transfer.

Announcing the ASI Award

TASEZ’s mission is to take the lead in growing Africa’s new industrial revolution, which is why the enterprise has decided to launch a new award – the Automotive SMME Innovation Award (ASI Award) – as part of the Gauteng Acceleration Programme’s (GAP) annual Innovation Competition, joining the existing categories of ICT, medical, biosciences, green and township economy. The competition rewards innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs for their work on fresh technologies that will improve service delivery, increase competitiveness, and enhance the lives of ordinary citizens.

The winner of the ASI Award will work closely with TASEZ in partnership with innovation and research agencies for incubation, mentorship, commercialisation, and industrialisation. The winner will receive intellectual property patenting support, funding, access to markets, research and development, high-tech skills development and the provision of infrastructure.

Dr Zulu notes that the award is particularly important right now. “South Africa’s automotive industry’s growth strategies are focused on becoming highly integrated into the global automotive environment. This has to be done on the back of inculcating a culture of innovation among SMMEs in the industry.”

Creating jobs in the automotive sector

The ASI Award is aimed at supporting government’s Black Industrialist Programme and the Township Economy Development Act (TEDA) programmes; providing access to global opportunities for original equipment manufacturing (OEM); and facilitating international exchange programmes.

The Black Industrialist Programme, run under the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, aims to promote industrialisation, sustainable economic growth, and transformation through supporting black-owned entities in the manufacturing sector, while TEDA aims to grow the township economy and create jobs.

Creating jobs is one of the central pillars of the country’s National Development Plan (NDP), which aims to eliminate poverty, reduce inequality, and cut unemployment to 6%.

The automotive industry is one of the sectors that is well placed to help build the country’s economy. In 2021, the industry contributed 4.3% to South Africa’s GDP, with the export of vehicles and automotive components reaching a record amount of R207.5 billion – 12.5% of South Africa’s total exports.