SOUTH African Automotive Week (SAAW), the only dedicated components industry showcase aimed at untapping the massive economic potential in the automotive sector, kicked off yesterday in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The event - which is being attended by top-level delegates from vehicle manufacturers, component manufacturers and the government – takes the form of a series of conferences, panel discussions and a trade show. It will run until Saturday at the Boardwalk.
Eastern Cape Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Mcebisi Jonas said the time had come to change South Africa's "growth trajectory" from being a minerals-based economy, to manufacturing-based.
"The high-growth countries of China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil and others are all countries that make things, and have invested significantly in skills and logistics.
"Our future depends on how rapidly we are able to change our growth path to one in which we prioritise and support manufacturing and value-addition to our minerals and agricultural commodities," he said.
Jonas said providing support for the growth of the Eastern Cape automotive industry was one of the pillars of the provincial government's strategy to "industrialise the province and unlock our huge economic potential".
He said the province's economic potential "centred around our three ports and two IDZs".
He said these projects lay at the core of the provincial jobs strategy which aims to create 150000 new jobs by 2015, and 500000 jobs by 2020 as part of the New Growth Path target of five million new jobs nationally by 2020.
"The next eight years will be a crucial period for growth of the SA auto industry as it moves towards the 1.2- million APDP [Automotive Production and Development Programme] production target.
"As the Eastern Cape, we aim to secure half of this target. We are looking to you as industry representatives and stakeholders to work with us to develop innovative ways to achieve this," Jonas said.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, in a recorded video, said: "The automotive sector has a strategic role to play in manufacturing, especially with its linkages in the supply chain and after-market. It is an industry that has significance beyond the production phase."
About 300 exhibitors, including a large contingent from China and other countries, are showcasing their products and equipment at SAAW.