Blog: Dave LeggettPort Elizabeth conference - SAAC 2005

Dave Leggett | 25 April 2005

I had an e-mail earlier today from Chris Wright, who is in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, having just travelled there from Shanghai (see his feature for us from Shanghai /features_detail.asp?art=1090). Anyway, along with Tony Lewis and a few others, he's busy setting things up for the South African  auto industry conference - SAAC 2005 - in Port Elizabeth that takes place next week. He's a good lad, so I said I'd stick something in here for him. Click the link below to see who's lined up for the conference.

I spoke at the same event last year and three things stick out in my mind.

  1. No-one in the industry over there seems remotely interested in low-cost concepts for developing something like mass-market demand in SA or more widely on the African continent. The man from GM said, somewhat dismissingly, that such ideas were naive and auto literate South Africans would always rather have a used banger or a smoking BMW anyway (well, perhaps not his exact words). Has anyone else read Schumacher's - no, not the racing guy - 'Small is Beautiful' on intermediate technology and development? What about cheap to build utilitarian and very basic MPVs that can be easily assembled at low volume, at multiple sites and maintained easily in local workshops, thus providing much-needed employment that is spread about a bit too? Just an idea for discussion and please forgive me if I sound like an old hippy who has been at the wacky baccy.
  2. South Africa is a country with enormous potential and, actually, a pretty good starting point, economically. In African terms it is the regional giant and I really do hope that it does not eventually go the way of neighbouring Zimbabwe. I liked the feel of the place and the people I met very much. 
  3. The two-hour duration 'happy hour' free cocktails every evening at the hotel where I stayed were fun. The guys behind the bar really knew how to do a decent G&T, sipped on the garden terrace, looking out to the ocean, occasional glimpses of partying dolphins. Civilised.

Look out for coverage from the conference on just-auto next week.


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