South Africa: Steel Industry Tips Closer to Demise

analysis

In June, President Cyril Ramaphosa was mocked for articulating a dream to build a smart city and a high-speed rail network in SA. But a grand vision such as this is what is needed to save SA's steel industry (and maybe SA).

This week's announcement of the voluntary liquidation of downstream steel supplier Robor caught no one in the steel industry by surprise. The 90-year-old firm had fought tooth and nail to survive - even securing permission from the Competition authorities in 2018 to merge with a competitor, which was allowed under the "failing firms" principle.

Today neither Robor, nor its competitor Macsteel Tube & Pipe exist, at the cost of more than 600 jobs. The companies supplied pipes for water supply, tube for structural engineering applications, hi-tensile scaffolding, mine support systems and precision tubing in general.

Robor was also one of a diminishing pool of SA companies that remained sufficiently competitive to export its product, in its case to the US. Its galvanised-pipe factory was considered among the top three in the world. The institutional knowledge that has been lost with the closing of those doors cannot be recovered.

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