The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will offer growth opportunities for the local steel cladding sector as States ramp up extraction of their mineral and other natural resources, says Southern African Metal Cladding and Roofing Association (Samcra) executive director Dennis White.
This is provided that manufacturers have access to competitively priced input materials, as government export policy needs to be mindful of the impact of State subsidies in some member States, he adds.
“Samcra participates in numerous South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) technical committees. Samcra strives to ensure local standards and provide for the use of new materials and innovations, or promote the adaptation of internationally recognised standards, to enable local manufacturers to be competitive internationally. Many AfCFTA countries have currently adopted European standards.”
Further, he adds that Samcra also promotes participation in the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) committees. ARSO is the body responsible for the development of and/or adoption of standards to be implemented by AfCFTA member countries.
Samcra also chaired the SABS committee that drafted the soon-to-be-published South African National Standard (SANS) for the design, testing and installation of self-supporting metal cladding.
In addition to the AfCFTA, Samcra anticipates that demand for large automated warehouses and distributions centres will continue going forward, in addition to suburban shopping centres.
White states that developers require systems and materials that will require the minimum maintenance over the design life of a building.
“For this requirement, the local range of concealed fix cladding systems – which can be roll formed in single continuous lengths on site - provide the best solution. The concept of on-site roll forming is a South African innovation that dates back to the early 1970s,” he explains.
In addition, White states that the construction of private schools also provides growth opportunities for the local cladding industry. Outside of State schools and medical facilities, however, there aren’t many opportunities expected from built infrastructure, he adds.
He points out that there is also an increase in demand for metal cladding on upmarket residential developments, whereas the use of metal cladding on affordable housing is declining.
White estimates that overall production of steel cladding in South Africa is conservatively estimated to be 350 000 t/y, with a value of R9-billion.
Declining Best Practices
White contends that there is a “lack of integrity” shown by an increasing number of players in the local industry.
He states that this is evident with the substitution of inferior products for specified materials, reliable supply of input material at internationally competitive prices, and the failure of South Africa’s government to address the issue of fraudulent imports.
The metal cladding market is comprised of two sectors. The first is mainstream construction, which White describes as well structured, as it offers up-to-date, world-class cladding systems that are roll formed on modern rolling mills from quality materials.
The second, he points out, is merchandising, which has a limited range of pierce fix systems that are roll formed largely from lesser quality materials, where price is paramount over structural length and durability.
Compliance with building regulations and public safety are regularly ignored in this sector, White stresses.
“Both sectors are relatively buoyant, although mainstream is still grappling with shortages of material whereas merchandising rely on low priced imports.”
Through Samcra’s continuing professional development presentations and workshops for professionals, the association promotes the benefits of using national and international standards in tender documentation.
Samcra also actively participates in the Downstream Steel Forum, where the focus is on addressing fraudulent imports, and where it has been successful in stemming the dishonest importation of corrugated material.
In addition, he points out that in the construction industry, there has been an increasing decline in the standard of workmanship over the last two decades.
He highlights the decline of former trade schools, which has contributed to the decline of a number of trades that previously had no local formal training, of which that of roofer is one.
White laments the declining standards and lack of best practice in the local industry, and that a future goal of Samcra is to develop a formal training programme with a reputable recognised institution.
He explains that Samcra is looking to facilitate the fusion of ambitions of the metal cladding industry with the requirements of the specifiers and clients, in order to create a “successful and respected industry”.
This comes in addition to ensuring that there are comprehensive and widely accepted SANS standards for metal cladding, tiles and allied products.
“We maintain an active technical committee on which all members are encouraged to participate. The committee is developing a strong knowledge base on all aspects of cladding; it also provides a forum for the evaluation of new technologies and products. Samcra is the go-to body for all matters pertaining to metal cladding and we impartially represent the industry’s collective interest,” he concludes.