This week, the Deputy President of South Africa urged greater support for local products and services in
an effort to boost production and jobs in the country. This, during the national Buy Local show in Johannesburg, is just another example of how calls for greater local support for products and services are becoming louder, but also how industry and consumers aren't yet hearing the message.
It makes perfect sense - buying local creates greater demand for locally manufactured or provided services and products which in turn increases jobs and reduces the foreign deficit that the country faces. It also increases the country's ability to use and manufacture raw materials that currently get exported to other manufacturing countries - and then re-imported at a premium by South Africans.
But is the manufacturing sector doing enough itself? It's all well-and-fine to expect consumers to purchase locally produced products and services, but why are manufacturers still relying on - and supporting foreign-based certification and labelling schemes when it comes to quality, sustainability or production techniques? There are local labels that fully comply with international standards, yet there is a reluctance by local manufacturers to have their products labelled against these systems. Why?
More importantly, manufacturers are doing themselves and the country a disservice by resorting to foreign labels because of local legislative, environmental, labour and social challenges the face in their businesses. International labels do not translate across national boundaries very well, because local conditions vary and a one-size-fits-all approach by labelling organisations is simply impractical.
Add to this the increasing use of house-labels for environmental, quality or social compliance, and the problem with many locally produced products is that consumers don't believe the claims that manufacturers make! Would you support a label that makes claims that cannot be verified or endorsed by a third-party? Probably not, so why manufacturers don't simply get behind their local labels and help build their credibility remains a mystery.
Buy local but at he same time, demand that the products that you buy are certified locally against local conditions - not some foreign and inappropriate standard. That's how we build the economy.