Trade and Industry

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Moving up the copper value chain in Southern Africa

WIDER Working Paper 2019/38

This working paper, Moving up the copper value chain in Southern Africa, forms part of the project: Southern Africa – Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED)


This paper provides an overview of the structure, key functions, and characteristics of the motorcycle parts and aftermarket industries in Southern Africa in order to identify challenges to and opportunities for growth in these industries. The research examines the end markets and utilization of motorcycles, the status of these markets, and demand for local or regional production processes. The paper also considers the main factors affecting the sales of motorcycles and their parts in the region and assesses whether a more coordinated approach between governments and foreign and local firms could lead to assembly and/or manufacturing value-added activity in the Southern African Development Community region.

Southern African countries - mainly Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - account for around a seventh of global production of copper. In the 2010s, they imported over a third of the associated capital goods and components from South Africa. Given this strength, some observers suggest that the South African capital goods industry could do more to support copper fabrication in the region. Theoretically, investing in production of semimanufactures (principally wire, cable, and tubing) would promote industrialization and enhance value-add. In practice, however, unit prices have only been slightly higher for semis than for refined copper, limiting scope for fabrication - especially as local manufacturers obtain copper essentially at international prices. In any case, the South African capital goods industry is centred on mining, not metalworking machinery. It can only compete with overseas suppliers if it obtains increased
financial support for exports and for research and development.

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TIPS acknowledges UNU-Wider and the South African Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) for their financial support for this working paper.