The Eastern Cape, home to four of South Africa’s automakers, will soon launch its automotive cluster initiative to support this key sector. The province’s MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mcebisi Jonas, said the goal of the initiative is “to drive a series of priority regional interventions” to support the sector. General Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Ford have manufacturing bases in the province and the local supply chain consists of roughly 80 major automotive suppliers within a 1500-company strong automotive value chain. The total auto sector related industry employs about 40 000 workers in the Eastern Cape, the ministry said. Jonas said in a statement, recent meetings with automakers, key component suppliers and industry associations had shown there was support for the establishment of an auto cluster in the province.MAIN ISSUEThese meetings had also highlighted a number of issues, he said, chiefly logistics. "Logistics was singled out as the key competitive disadvantage of the Eastern Cape and South African automotive sector in general,” Jonas said."The cost structure of the local logistics system, in terms of port charges in particular, was identified as being significantly higher than elsewhere."Jonas also said "key connectivity" needed to be enhanced in three critical corridors between Port Elizabeth and Gauteng, East London and Gauteng, and East London and Port Elizabeth. Connectivity between Uitenhage and the Port of Ngqura was another "critical area", as was the expansion of the Port of East London.Jonas said a series of meetings from January 16 to 20, 2012, would be an opportunity to "flesh out the agenda and key minimum programmes within each of the focus areas of the cluster initiative".