This industry covers a highly varied set of products, including most telecommunications equipment as well as medical and other precision instruments. It contributed 1,1% of total manufacturing production in the third quarter of 2015, with the share remaining stable from 2010. It appeared to be very strongly and successfully export oriented, but imports remained around four times as high as local production.
The industry reported strong growth over the past two years, but it was off a relatively small base. Production grew by 11,6% from third quarter 2013 to third quarter 2015. Even this relatively rapid rate of growth represented a slowdown from the 26% growth in the industry from the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2013. From the second to the third quarter of 2015 alone, production rose by 7,8%.
Employment was 15 000 in the third quarter of 2015. It had reportedly dropped by around half in the previous five years, but the figure is so small that reported changes are statistically insignificant.
Capacity utilisation has been around 82% for the past two years.
The up-to-date data for exports relate only to precision and professional equipment, with telecommunications included in the broader machinery category. Still, the figures suggest a strong and growing export orientation. Exports of precision equipment accounted for just 1,4% of total manufacturing exports in the third quarter of 2015, up from 1,2% two years earlier. They equalled 92% of total production of radio, television and communication apparatus and professional equipment in the third quarter of 2015, compared to 73% two years earlier.
In dollar terms, exports of precision and professional equipment earned US$154 million in the third quarter of 2015, up from US$123 million two years earlier. In the second quarter of 2015, they amounted to US$157 million. In rand terms, they climbed from R1,2 billion in the third quarter of 2013 to R1,9 billion in the second quarter of 2015, then increased to R2,0 billion in the third quarter. That said, the quarterly trade data are not seasonally adjusted, so the changes may not be significant.
Imports of precision and professional equipment came to 3% of all manufactured imports in the third quarter of 2015, compared to 4% in the third quarter of 2013. They were four times as large as local production of telecommunications and professional equipment combined in the third quarter of 2015. In rand terms, they climbed from R7, 0 billion in 2013 to R7,6 billion in the third quarter of 2015. In the second quarter, they were at R6,9 billion, but the figures are not seasonally adjusted.