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SA furniture sector poised for mega growth

Home Business Management Finance & Investment SA furniture sector poised for mega growth

SOUTH Africa’s furniture sector has the potential to grow into one of the biggest manufacturing industries in the country and make a major contribution to the country’s GDP.

That’s the bullish outlook from Bernadette Isaacs, Managing Director of the South African Furniture Initiative (SAFI), which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary by taking note of past successes and using that knowledge to springboard the organisation into the future.

The organisation was established as a joint initiative of industry, labour and government with the aim of promoting development and growth of the local furniture industry for the benefit of all stakeholders.

“Since then, we took centre stage in our role of connector for an industry made up of many small and medium-sized enterprises without access to policymakers, local and international markets and manufacturers,” she said.

Isaacs acknowledged that the road to becoming a “credible and pivotal role player for the industry” had not been without its challenges. These included dwindling confidence on the part of international investors, widespread unrest, unreliable electricity supply, labour issues and a shortage of raw materials.

She cited Quantec figures which showed the sector employed 34,719 people in 2018 with another 7,728 employed in the informal sector before COVID-19. But with the subsequent economic downturn, widespread job losses and loss of income were reported.

On the positive side, were the adoption of the national Furniture Industry Master Plan (FIMP) on 29 March 2021 and the establishment of the SARS Furniture Forum in June 2019 to address the industry’s challenges and to provide support to inform trade and industrial policy directed at decreasing illegal imports of furniture into South Africa.

SAFI also initiated the annual Furniture Sector Forum, launched in 2019 in partnership with Proudly South African, an annual knowledge-sharing online platform where core issues in the Furniture Industry are discussed. The third instalment of this forum will take place in November 2021 when the future of the furniture industry and the restructuring of SAFI are some of the topics that will be explored.

“Reorganising SAFI into seven chambers is an exciting development brought about by the recent adoption of the FIMP,” Isaacs said. “By accommodating the segments of the industry as outlined in the plan, we are able to enhance the participation of SMMEs and focus on strategic relationships with stakeholders in the value chain.”

The past 18 months saw the sector laying the foundation to enable the local furniture manufacturing industry to grow into one of the biggest manufacturing industries in the country.

“I believe in the industry’s potential to become a key contributor to the country’s GDP, but collaboration between government, business and labour is key to the successful implementation of the FIMP, thereby assisting the industry to become more globally competitive while supporting the local value chain,” Isaacs said.

“A lot has changed in the industry since the beginning of 2020 where sectors like office furniture had to pivot to furniture tailormade for the home. The resilience of the furniture manufacturing industry and furniture design, coupled with skills training and learning opportunities, will go a long way to help South Africa become an international furniture force to be reckoned with.”

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