The Rep caught up with Komani’s Thabo Shenxane, who has just completed his first month as CEO of
the Eastern Cape (EC) Automotive Industrial Development Centre
(AIDC) in Gqeberha (formerlyPort Elizabeth).
Shenxane’s role as the new CEO is to bring recognition to the investments AIDC is making in the province. Its aim is to align AIDC’s strategy between provincial government, local government and the industry.
His function is also to bring the industry closer to government and to realise the objectives set out in the South Africa Automotive Masterplan 2035 set out by national government.
The indelible mark he aims to leave after his term at AIDC includes increasing the global market share of vehicles produced in South Africa.
His goal for this post is to support existing original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to increase export and production, and to attract other OEMs to set up and export from EC ports.
Shenxane also plans to enhance the process of transformation of the industry and reduce import of parts used in the assembly of vehicles. He also wants to increase the manufacturing base as well as create new entrepreneurs and jobs in the province throughout the industry value chain.
Shenxane said Ford’s recent R15.8bn investment was excellent for the country, especially at a time when the world was battling with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is a statement of confidence in the investment climate of the country and will encourage increased production of vehicles from South Africa.
“We are confident that this investment will also spill over to the EC to take advantage of the port infrastructure that the province has.”
As for Komani getting its own car manufacturing plant in future, Shenxane says the town will have to rethink its own profile and how it redefines its investment strategy.
“There is a huge need for [Komani] to invest in its infrastructure. Large sums of money need to be invested into upgrading electricity, water and digital transformation infrastructures, general local government stability and general road infrastructure, skills, etc.
“Having said that, I think realistically there is a role to be played by Komani in hosting manufacturing plants that can contribute to the assembly of vehicles as opposed to talking about its own car manufacturing plant.”
However, he said, there would have to be huge incentives to cover logistics costs to send such parts to the main plants. Investing in skills development of local youth to participate in the value chain should also be considered.
With technological advances set to bring about self-driving cars in the near future, Shenxane could not predict when SA’s motorists would get there, but he believed it was still a long way off.
“If one looks at SAAM 2035, which is the South African government’s strategy on supporting the growth of the industry in South Africa, there is little said about self-driving cars.
“This means there is recognition by our government that it is important for the country to maintain what we have first, consolidate for the next 15 years and perhaps we can begin discussions with OEMs on their future plans for self-driving. Remember, about 65% of the market for locally produced cars is in Europe.
“Also, it will require huge infrastructure investment in the country to accommodate self-driving cars,” he said.