An innovative Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) initiative will give member companies and other industry professionals the opportunity to directly benefit from its substantial brand credibility, boosting their profiles across South Africa and the rest of Africa.
The SAISC is facilitating a dynamic and ongoing programme of events, networking platforms, digital training sessions and more as part of its new ‘brand for hire’ marketing and revenue-generation model. In terms of this new model, the Institute’s members – from across the entire steel value chain – are invited to co-sponsor initiatives, conference visits, and events. Sharing the brand space will allow these members to leverage the SAISC’s brand equity and credibility accordingly.
The initiative will also unlock new sources of revenue for the Institute, which until now has relied largely on membership fees for its income.
A custodian marketing the steel value chain
Commenting on the new initiative, the SAISC’s Chief Executive Officer Amanuel Gebremeskel says that the revenue derived from this new marketing model will ensure sustainability, while helping the Institute to expand on its traditional role as a custodian of quality and the industry’s marketing arm.
“This is vital to the continued well-being of the entire steel value chain,” Gebremeskel says.
“We would like to give a lot more opportunity to member companies to be associated with us in the eyes of the market. The advantage we have as the Institute is that we have an excellent brand. People look at us and they see technical excellence, knowledge, methodology regarding how to design and build in steel in the best manner. They also know that the SAISC brand is one inherently associated with quality and safety – which we promote strongly,” he explains.
Although the Steel Awards will remain the flagship in the SAISC’s marketing calendar – the premier showpiece celebrating the industry – the Institute is also keenly and proactive exploring other avenues through which to assist members to access new markets.
Developing quality standards for Africa
Members hoping to export to the rest of Africa as regional trade treaties – such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement – come into force, spurring infrastructure development, will improve their prospects greatly if they help to shape industry standards which will be applied across the continent.
Gebremeskel says that the SAISC – as the only Institute of its kind in Africa and indeed one of only 6 worldwide – is the only body in the region which can facilitate this standardisation process. As such, he would like to see member companies – or groups of companies – associating with and sponsoring the Institute’s efforts.
“Our work will target specific markets and products and include foreign visits to help draft common specifications and codes – aimed at achieving steel construction standards harmonisation – and to assist with education and training at African universities,” he says.
He points out that this is likely to be a boon for SAISC members’ businesses in the future, but the groundwork is not something individual members can achieve alone. Gebremeskel believes the South African steel industry has a lot to offer the continent, particularly when it comes to developing product and quality standards for the steel sector.
“We have been working on and with product and quality standards for decades – so it would be a pity for us not to engage in the latest pan-African standards developments; as well as the market developments that are unfolding on the continent,” he says.
Synergistic education, digitisation and promotion
Touching on the SAISC’s commitment to education and digitisation, Gebremeskel envisions the Institute as supporting more self-directed learning, enabling geographic reach to profile what he terms the “essential excellence” of the local steel industry.
Here, he sees opportunities for member companies to provide sponsorship and associate themselves with training and standards development, while synergistically benefitting from the Institute’s ‘brand for hire’ concept.
Gebremeskel hopes to see more steel companies “benefiting from the SAISC brand”. He says this can include “something as simple as travelling with us to other countries”.
“We are known in the United States, but a South African fabricator or supplier might not be known,” says Gebremeskel, mentioning the American Institute of Steel Construction’s conference which he attended with a delegation of local fabricators in April 2023.
The conference, in North Carolina, is one of the largest events of its kind in the world, bringing together thousands of delegates to share research, unveil new products and equipment, network – and ultimately, seek that next big deal.
Gebremeskel says the conference was the first major event SAISC has attended recently, marking a real return to international steel conferencing, networking and marketing efforts since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Industry’s business development ‘calling card’
He stresses that it is vital for members to provide sponsorship so the Institute can attend these events and for members – representatives of companies, or groups – to accompany the SAISC. To this end – while sending delegates abroad is expensive – the business development potential for the industry is vast, Gebremeskel explains.
“For example, if a South African fabricator manages to win a 3000 ton job, even if they spent R1 million to go and do this, it makes sense. It’s still very affordable when compared with the potential return-on-investment in the form of excellent new business,” he says.
While it is true that conference visits do not always bring immediate benefits, Gebremeskel likens their value to the metaphorical stone cast into water: it causes ripples, the results of which can be far-reaching.
He says the by facilitating attendance at global steel events, the Institute is providing members with a ‘calling card’ that allows them to cast those stones into the proverbial ‘pool’ of business development opportunities. In this way, members attending can benefit from reputational endorsement and direct access to players working on large multi-national steel projects.
Gebremeskel says the SAISC will be selective about sponsors for the various ‘brand for hire’ revenue generating initiatives it has planned, aiming to team up with member companies which do quality work, strive for technical excellence and which are legally compliant. More than this, he says SAISC seeks partners which share its vision.
“We would like our brand to be hired by companies aligned with our ethos, and our goals to support quality and professionalism in the steel value supply chain. And we would like companies and groups that share our vision to invest their resources and their support because they wish to be part of ensuring there is a vibrant, sustainable and strong SAISC – empowered to serve the interests of the entire steel value chain – going forward,” he says.