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EL tech company aims to spread its wings into Africa

New chair feels top manufacturer can do better in the jobs stakes TED KEENAN – BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT When Yekani Manufacturing (YM), the East London Industrial Development Zone’s (ELIDZ) technology-linked manufacturer, was looking for a chairperson, chief executive Siphiwe Cele wanted someone who knew his or her way around a boardroom rather than a factory floor, and who could sell the company at decision-maker level. Her choice for the job was Zolile Tini. He had chaired the IDZ for nine years,…

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New chair feels top manufacturer can do better in the jobs stakes

TED KEENAN – BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT

When Yekani Manufacturing (YM), the East London Industrial Development Zone’s (ELIDZ) technology-linked manufacturer, was looking for a chairperson, chief executive Siphiwe Cele wanted someone who knew his or her way around a boardroom rather than a factory floor, and who could sell the company at decision-maker level.

Her choice for the job was Zolile Tini. He had chaired the IDZ for nine years, was a senior figure and president of Border-Kei Chamber of Business and is a successful businessman in his own right. Tini was also well connected to many sectors of government and private enterprise.

“YM, which cost R1bn, has the tech savvy it needs, so I see my role well away from the manufacturing side and into the boardrooms of the decision-makers with the purchasing power. This is a world-class manufacturing plant and we need to get that fact out there. We cannot be a best kept secret, even from East Londoners.” YM’s product range extends to innovative technology products for clients in the automotive, defence, aerospace/aviation industries as well as a portfolio of products that includes education tablets and laptops, and mobile handsets and laptops.

Tini sees job creation as one of his many roles. “There are various statistics out there as to how many young people simply cannot find work. I think the most accurate one is that 76% of the Eastern Cape youth.

“They are desperate for work, but cannot find it because there are no entry-level jobs. It cannot continue, especially when one realises that this plant now employs 446 people, which is fine, except that it is designed to employ over a thousand, and with government support that will happen.” Talk of upskilling learners, giving them tablets and access to technology, readying them for the 4th Industrial Revolution, now needs action. Eastern Cape and national government can assist. In East London the IDZ has the manufacturing capacity to create work, but it needs support.

“We need to get our metro and the province behind us, and to achieve that we need a change of buying patterns. Buy local must be the message.” YM has, said Tini, excellent training facilities. It recently employed 100 technical students on a short-term contract, some of them electrical engineers, from East London’s two job creation centres, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and Technical and Vocational Education and Training. “Some will be joining us, and the others can at least be assured that when they apply for a job and get hit with the question about experience, they can answer that they have worked on the shop floor.

Tini said that getting YM up to full manufacturing speed should be a short process, provided SA copied China’s approach with technology companies. “Huawei is an excellent example of how China turned a promising brand into an international leader by assisting it over the early barriers. “The same has to happen in SA. It is essential that we look after our own first, get our manufacturers to peak productivity, with a momentum that will enable it to explore markets outside SA: North up into Africa and then overseas. We have an excellent product and now we need orders to match it.”

YM’s vision is to be Africa’s leading international technology manufacturing innovator positioned to take of advantage of disruption, and to cause it.

 

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