The East Rand is one of five major metropolitan areas in the country, and forms the heart of South Africa’s manufacturing economy. In recent years, manufacturing in the region has stagnated, while its population has grown significantly.
The East Rand represents the largest single territorial concentration of manufacturing in the country. In 1988, it had 3 341 manufacturers employing 240 430 people, and produced a gross output of R22.2 billion. This formed nearly 20% of the national manufacturing output of R118.2 billion.
Employment figures confirm that the East Rand is stagnating, but continued decline is not inevitable. Drops in employment driven mainly be a slow-down of metal industries, rather than a large-scale de-industrialisation, which has occurred elsewhere in the world.
Any effort to revitalise the area faces formidable challenges. These include: huge social inequalities and high levels of crime and violence; massive discrepancies in infrastructure services; a lack of identification with the area among business leaders; and a lack of regional planning among local governments.
The East Rand’s economy can be revived, but steps to do so cannot be postponed indefinitely. All East Rand-based interests and social partners, especially business, labour and government, need to get together and be involved in the revival.