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South Africa was ranked the 21st largest steel producer by the World Steel Association and produced 7.2 million tonnes of crude steel in 2014, accounting for 0.4% of global production. ArcelorMittal SA is the largest steel manufacturer on the continent and as the only company operating blast furnaces in South Africa, it is responsible for the majority of basic iron production, as well as supplying 80% of local flat steel requirements and 52% of the local long steel products.
Trading conditions have been challenging and made worse by stiff competition from Asian producers. More than 600,000 tons of steel was imported into South Africa from China during 2014 and was sold at least R500/ton cheaper than local steel. Lack of protection from cheap imports and reduced cost-effectiveness because of low capacity-utilisation make it difficult for South African companies to compete internationally. Increasing electricity prices and concerns over stable supply from Eskom, recently downgraded to “junk” status by ratings agency Standard & Poor, also threaten the success of local iron and steel product manufacturers.
Eyeing the rest of Africa
Despite the difficulties of local manufacture, South Africa is seen as a lucrative market for international companies because of the potential for growth in the rest of Africa. Regional GDP growth of 5.2% in 2015 and 2016 and the focus on the development of mining and infrastructure are predicted to create a strong demand for steel.
The Manufacture of Iron & Steel in South Africa evaluates the domestic industry, government attempts to stimulate local manufacture and factors influencing the sector’s success. The report also profiles 25 industry players, ranging from the local arm of multi-national ArcelorMittal to small enterprise NJR Steel Holdings (Pty) Ltd, which employs 14 people in the manufacture of sheet and plates and hot rolled flat products.