At a symposium hosted by the German Engineering Association recently, the director of Elmex Steel Works, Sadler Kamudyariwa said the cheap and inferior steel products, which are mainly from Asia, are destroying the industry and might lead to its stagnation.
It is a fact that cheap imports in whatever form adversely affect production in any given industry. Steel products industry is no exception. Cheap and counterfeit steel products are disturbing the pricing dynamics in the country, he said.
Elmex is a manufacturer that specialises in production of steel window frames, carports, Maxidor security barriers and patios. With a staff complement of 23, the company sees good prospects in the recently introduced production line for aluminium window frames and doors.
In an interview with Mmegi Business, Kamudyariwa said the manufacturing sector in Botswana is still in its infancy stage and needs to be protected if it is to be nurtured successfully. He noted that some steel products used in building construction and steel structures can cause catastrophic defects in buildings since they are made from counterfeit materials.
I will give you an example of steel which is used in window frame production. We have noticed that the quality is not consistent and this obviously compromises the final quality of the finished product, he said.
Some of the products that are imported include doorframes, window frames, nails, screws, drill bits and hand tools such as
sash clamps, bench vices, pliers and screw drivers as well as machinery.
Kamudyariwa advised on the need for quality assessment of products coming into the country to offset attempts to turn Botswana into a dumping ground. He stated that this would be helpful from a safety perspective as well as for the protection of the vulnerable manufacturing sector.
Kamudyariwa added that the importation of cheap steel is likely to cause a drop in domestic steel prices and that it would result in closure of the many small companies. Our market is small and price sensitive, you can imagine what can happen if it is flooded with these cheap imports. The local manufacturers will be crowded out and will become extinct. All the efforts to develop the sector will be adversely affected and companies will close resulting is massive job losses, he said.
According to Kamudyariwa, there is a huge demand for steel in the country as evidenced by frequent critical shortages of certain profiles of steel. He said this causes prices to be inflated.
The director, however, expressed hope that the coming in of new steel manufacturers such as Pula Steel would improve the situation. He indicated that at times they are forced to wait indefinitely for supplies, which has an adverse effect on their business, as they will fail to deliver the final product to their clients on time.