24 August 2007
A new campaign, South Africa First, was launched at the GovTech 2007 conference in Cape Town this week, with the aim of encouraging both the public and private sector to make more use of local content when spending on information technology (IT).
An initiative of the SA Local Procurement Advocacy Trust, focusing initially on the IT sector, South Africa First seeks to ensure that local businesses benefit from an estimated R1-billion a week spend on products and services in SA as a result of the country’s economic boom.
The campaign will encourage government departments, state-owned enterprises and private businesses to include local content preference in tenders, and will run competitions to promote local design and manufacture.
Proline and Mecer, two of the country’s largest local personal computer (PC) brands, have already signed up as South Africa First members.
“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,” South Africa First executive director Martin Feinstein said in a statement.
Feinstein heads the initiative along with a group of trustees from the technology, tourism, media, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
“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,” Feinstein said. “Not recognizing local content is really a dis-incentive.”
Previously, as the chief executive of 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?” Feinstein asks.
“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 recognized for this in government contracts?”
Feinstein said the campaign aimed merely to put into action what business, the government and organised labour had agreed to at a Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council) summit in 2002 – 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,” he said.
“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.”
Other trustees of the campaign include former Nedlac executive director Phillip Dexter, former Microsoft SA executive Linda Mngomezulu, Gauteng Enterprise Propeller chairperson Merle O’Brien, and tourism specialist Sheryl Ozinsky.