The government's Integrated Manufacturing Strategy identifies competitiveness as its primary focus, and value-matrices as the framework within which to assess manufacturing performance. This paper addresses these issues through two main components. The first is a review of interpretations of competitiveness and its determinants. The second is an assessment of South African manufacturing performance in a comparative context. This makes reference to recent studies of manufacturing sub-sectors, and draws comparisons with the performance of other developing countries. Drawing on the analysis, implications are discussed for the government's industrial policy framework and the use of a value matrix methodology.