Does South African manufacturing have a problem?

“The makerspace idea originates from the USA. The concept is about lowering the barriers of entry for people to express their creativity in a physical way. It is about people getting together, working creatively, inspiring each other, engaging with new technology, and building a bottom-up economy, as the MakerSpace Foundation describes it,” explained Henry Levine, CEO at Made In Workshop.

“Made In Workshop does not offer machining or fabrication services but rather access to the tools, machinery and workshop space that helps individuals and companies to turn their idea into a manufactured product. From there the options but more importantly the barriers to entry have been significantly lowered,” explained Levine.

“However, through my working experience and the last five years of running Made In Workshop I have found there are many bureaucratic barriers to entry for manufacturing entrepreneurs. But more importantly there are not enough support programmes and training for employers. And what I mean is businesses that are already running.”

Henry Levine, CEO at Made In Workshop

“A walk down the aisles of a supermarket, hypermarket or a big wholesale retail outlet is generally a thing that most South Africans do regularly. We have that one thing that we must get. Whether it be booze and snacks for a party, our monthly bulk shop or that piece of sporting equipment. In my case I always look at the product’s country of origin. It is no surprise that it is often China, India or Vietnam. South Africa does also feature in this ‘list’. However, I would like to emphasise that we are very low on the list. We are not a manufacturing nation. In the last two years especially during the pandemic, we can see just how dependent we are on imported goods.”

“Manufacturing in South Africa, in my opinion, is not encouraged. It is far easier to import goods from Alibaba than to tool up and manufacture it. The manufacturing industry has the potential to greatly reduce our unemployment rate, increase GDP and make us far less dependent on imported goods.”

“There have been many attempts to encourage manufacturing in South Africa albeit indirectly. Upliftment of unemployed youth is one such solution. Uplift the youth, train them in new skills and teach them how to be entrepreneurial and we should get an increase in employment. I don’t think that worked too well and here I must get on to my ‘virtual’ soap box.”

“There are many youth empowerment programmes around, both private as well as public. A quick Google search can confirm this fact. These programmes are well thought out and executed. Many graduates are well versed in their chosen field. But there are no jobs for them. Employment has two sides. Employee and employer. You cannot improve one side without improving the other. The equation must balance.”

“Businesses need to be uplifted as well. Now this is the side that I sit on as the CEO of Made In Workshop. Made In Workshop is a coworking and shared fabrication studio and workshop. We purchase industrial tools and machines for other businesses to use to manufacture their product. Apart from a VAT refund there’s no further incentives. The real cost of the machine is not the capital cost but the running costs. Businesses are not sponsored to increase their capabilities. For a business to grow it costs us more.”

“Another Google search shows there are very few upliftment programmes for business. Going back to my analogy above, the equation is not balanced. But how do we fix it?”

“In no particular order reduce duties on manufacturing specific machinery and encourage skills development of the businesses themselves.”

“If the equation balances and increases on both sides South Africa and its residents will benefit. Increased employment means more PAYE and income tax for the government. More production means more VAT and company taxes. I won’t even mention the side industries that would benefit from an increase in manufacturing. In short, our GDP will increase.”

“How do we start? I don’t have the answer for that question, but there have been too many good ideas that have been destroyed by greed. I think the comments on this article would agree with the problem here but how many would actually solve this problem.”

“This article is the reason we started Made In Workshop in 2017.”

Made In Workshop is one of the largest DIY workshops and makerspaces in South Africa. Made In Workshop provides a platform for prototyping, manufacturing and developing products in South Africa

“Made In Workshop is one of the largest DIY workshops and makerspaces in South Africa. We provide the highest calibre of tools, machines and workshop space for our customers to use along with the instruction needed to use them safely and effectively. Whether you are completing a home project or starting a new high-tech business, our friendly staff and large community of makers is always here to support and help you. Made In Workshop provides the perfect platform for prototyping, manufacturing and developing products in South Africa.”

“Since we opened the doors in 2017, we have always challenged conventions and the ways that things around us are made. We’re fervent supporters of the Maker Movement and are connected to other makerspaces around the world for support, inspiration and the sharing of ideas. We are not only home to a wide array of tools, machinery and workspaces but we have a vibrant and growing community of makers, engineers, designers and inventors.”

“For the first time in human history, we live in a time where for a very affordable price someone could think of an idea, design that idea, iterate that idea, manufacture that idea, and sell that idea in a matter of weeks or months and not in years. And not for millions of rands but for the price that an average small business could afford.”

“Every day my staff and I meet individuals or SME’s who are looking to either start a new business or complement their existing workshop with a machine that they do not have access to.”

For further details contact Made In Workshop on Tel: 087 701 4156 or visit or