Each year, suppliers to the industry gather together with EST directors and management for its annual breakfast. Last year’s event was hosted at the beautiful Johannesburg Country Club in Auckland Park.
With an established footprint in the FMCG market, EST Africa’s DIY voluntary buying group focus on sharing knowledge and margins with its members and growing the DIY footprint nationally.
Elite Star Trading, has taken on the building and DIY industry seven years ago, with the intention of becoming a hardware buying group that will act on behalf of independent traders in the industry.
As it traditionally goes, Mohamed Varachia, EST merchandising director opened the morning’s proceedings.
Rob Suttle highlighted what EST has achieved over the past year as a voluntary association with 651 member shareholders. “Everything we do is for a win-win between suppliers and us,” Suttle explained. “All our members are shareholders in the business and all we do is represent them to compete against the mighty chain groups.”
EST started seven years ago, and the turnover from member’s stores in 2012 was 1.3 billion. Last year ended at over 15 billion. Moving forward into 2019, EST will have several key focus points and these are teamwork, unity, e-trading, store upgrades management and staff training, category management, loyalty programmes and its website.
Varachia then took a minute to explain a bit about the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation who EST supports loyally and also a foundation of which Trevor Manual is the patron.
Zola Kathrada, niece of the late Ahmed Kathrada introduced the guest speaker, Trevor Manual. Manuel served in government as Minister of Finance from 1996 to 2009, during the presidencies of Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, and subsequently as Minister in the Presidency for the National Planning Commission from 2009 to 2014 under former President Jacob Zuma. Manuel is currently the Presidents special envoy on investment.
Manuel started off positively saying he is happy to see the figures on the board displayed earlier. “It shows there is opportunity in South Africa and there will be much more going forward.
“The past 18 months have been interesting and challenging. A year and a half ago Ahmed Kathrada passed away. At his funeral, Kgalema Motlanthe read out an open letter Kathrada wrote previously to the ANC movement. In it he said, if he was in the position of the president (then Zuma) ‘I would step down from my positions in the interest of the people.’” This was a dark time for the country, but also the beginning of the end.
“In 2017 Christmas came four days early and Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president of the ANC.” It was by the smallest of margins, but the impact of those changes were positive.
On 14 February 2018, President Zuma stepped down as president very late that night. Manuel recalls the moment as ‘the greatest gift of love Zuma could give the people.’ Two days later, then sworn in President Ramaphosa gave the state of the nation address. If you go back to that spread and look at the commitments made then and see what has happened in 2018.
The investment conference took place and by June the African Continental Free Trade agreement was re-signed. This is something that directly impacts on business such as EST who has a footprint in neighbouring countries as well. The Brics summit was also hosted in and by South Africa last year. By September the president led a significant delegation to China for the forum on China Africa cooperation. There, Chinese President Xi Jinping committed $16 billion to the development of Africa, of which R6bn is set aside for South Africa.
The Job summit took place in October. “This was probably the first time business, government and trade unions sat down together to discuss jobs. It is clear that we can only grow our markets by growing jobs and making investments in youth employment,” Manuel said.
“At the investment summit, spirits were really lifted. Although the figures do not always show on paper, it takes a lot for big firms to step up to the plate and commit to doing business here. It shows a lot about the confidence they currently have in us.”
It is clear from Manuel’s words that there is a new confidence in South Africa. He mentioned the South Africa tomorrow investment conference and the difference in spirit he sees. A sense of achievement that has been missing for a few years,” he stated.
There are big changes and big challenges in the leadership in the country. What we need to do in South Africa now, is to convert the good spirit into practical solutions. We need to do this because the long shadow of bad decisions from the Zuma era will be hanging over us for a long time.”
If you look at the climb South Africa experienced from 2004 to 2010 you see a good story, but we then experience the decline during the Zuma years. “If you took the trend line that we should have been on and where we are now, given the last four years, there is about a R1 000 per person per month less than where we should be.”
Overall the message from Manuel was one of confidence in the new leadership in government and that South Africa and its business can look forward to a new dawn.