KwaZulu-Natalâ€™s manufacturing sector enjoys a significant share of the South African economy and is the second largest in the country with nearly a third of manufactured exports being produced here. The sector contributes 20% of employment to the province.
The largest manufacturing industries in KwaZulu-Natal are the automobile sector, pulp and paper products, rubber and plastics, chemicals and petro-chemicals, food and beverages, as well as textiles and clothing. The mining sector, which includes titanium dioxide and zircon, along with iron, steel and ferroalloys is also considered very important.
The automotive manufacturing industry in KwaZulu-Natal is largely concentrated within the eThekwini Municipality, but also includes firms in Pietermaritzburg, Stanger, Ladysmith and Richards Bay.
The industry employs some 20 000 people and contributes about R21 billion to the local economy per annum.
The chemical industry is well-developed with a number of large plants and a diverse grouping of specialist mediumsized firms. Downstream there are many SMME chemical formulators, all of which play an important role in the distribution chain. Central to the industry are two large oil refineries which feed the petrochemical sector.
KwaZulu-Natal provides nearly a third of South Africaâ€™s plastics requirements. This industry, which utilises 150 000 tons of polymer per annum, consists of predominantly small and medium-sized companies. KwaZulu-Natal has a competent ship-building and repair sector with an excellent skills base.
An initiative to boost manufacturing has been the creation of special economic zones: the Dube TradePort
and Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone. These are driven by incentives to attract investment. The focus is value-added and export-orientated manufacturing.