“LEAD ON THE BASIS THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SERVE THOSE THAT YOU LEAD”
The memorable experience of this year’s FESPA Africa/ Africa Print 2016 which has a collection of PRINTING SA (PSA) events such as Jamboree Week of Print, Annual Printing SA Africa Conference and Special Gala Dinner cannot be forgotten in a hurry. No doubt, the successful execution of these events does not come as a surprise to industry observers who know the pedigree of the Team managing the affairs of the industry’s body:- Printing Industries Federation of South Africa (PIFSA) – with business brand – PRINTING SA (PSA) that has totally revolutionised and rejuvenated print practice and business in South Africa.
It is against this backdrop that WHERE To Print magazine in this Exclusive EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW sought to know the magic wand that has contributed to these developments as panacea to ailing industry bodies. We chat with PIFSA Chief Executive Officer – Rev/Mr Mvuleni Stephens Thobela (better known as Steve) on whose shoulders fall that herculean tasks of development and growing print businesses in South Africa. He shares his thoughts, insights and time-tested advice on how to move the industry forward. Excerpt:
WITHIN THE LAST 5 YEARS, HOW HAS PRINT BUSINESS FAIRED HERE IN SOUTH AFRICA?
Newspapers and magazines have generally continued to decline in terms of print orders however, one noted from the last Circulation Bureau reports that there are a number of titles that have stabilised and in fact a few showed a slight growth. Print generally is continuing to grow and the main driver of the growth is still the packaging subsector.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MUST HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THAT?
The decline in circulation of titles is as a result of electronic/social media. The overall growth is as a result of the need for packaging material which continues to grow and sparking much creativity especially with the new technologies in this field.
HOW HAS PRINTING SA CONTRIBUTED TO THE SUCCESS AND GROWTH OF PRINT BUSINESS IN SOUTH AFRICA?
Much work continues to be done under our four pillars namely; Conferring, Consulting; Campaigning and Training
. Printing SA has engaged policy makers on development of regulations ensuring that legislations, which are well intended, are implemented and they do not have unintended negative consequences to the industry. We have continued to recruit and train apprentices for the industry and provided expert technical and industrial relation advice to our members.
AS THE CEO OF PRINTING SA AND WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE IN PRINT BUSINESS MANAGEMENT, DO YOU FORESEE ANY GROWTH POTENTIAL IN THE INDUSTRY AND HOW CAN ENTREPRENEURS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS OPPORTUNITY?
Statistics show that the printing and packaging industry world-wide is currently worth more that USD780billion and it is anticipated to grow slightly over the next four year to 2020. Opportunities in African countries in this regard are enormous. By way of example, if one drives around most African cities, one can't help but notice an enormous amount of signs that are hand written. Just there lies great opportunities.
IN A NUTSHELL, WHAT SHOULD THEY DO DIFFERENTLY?
Need to follow the world trends; keep up with technology and be innovative.
WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE IN HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT WHAT ADVICE WILL YOU GIVE TO PRINT ENTREPRENEURS IN GROWING THEIR BUSINESSES THROUGH HUMAN CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT?
Training is key! Not only technical training which is vital, but also in soft skills and general business management skills.
ITS MORE THAN 2 YEARS NOW THAT PRINTING SA HAS BEEN COLLABORATING WITH FESPA, WHAT HAVE BEEN THE GAINS OF THIS PARTNERSHIP?
The FESPA's 'Profit for Purpose'
philosophy has helped us fund a number of projects. We have increased the number of member forums ran by each one of the Printing SA Chambers nationally. We have introduced the concept "Jamboree Week of Print"
which includes an Annual Printing SA Africa Conference, the exhibition which continues to be a success and Special Gala Dinner aimed at creating awareness of the role of print.
IS THERE ANY PLANS IN PLACE TO SURPASS THESE ACHIEVEMENTS?
The Board Chairman – Stephen van der Walt recently announced a multimillion Rand marketing campaign at the Annual Gala Dinner event which was held at Gallagher Convention Centre on the 9th
of September 2016. This campaign is aimed at promoting print and dispelling the myths that print is old fashioned, dirty and environmentally unfriendly. Also to attract young talents to the industry.
WE UNDERSTAND THAT YOU WERE WORKING WITH A NUMBER OF PRINTING BODIES IN AFRICA ON HOW TO DEVELOP AND GROW PRINT BUSINESS IN AFRICA, CAN YOU LET US KNOW THE LEVEL OF PROGRESS SO FAR?
We have come to realise that this will require more foundational work. We are currently looking at assisting the various countries set up trade organisations - which we believe - will provide the necessary support structure for business development.
LET ME BE MORE SPECIFIC HERE: YOU HAD A DELEGATION OF TOP EXECUTIVES FROM CIPPON THAT VISITED YOU LAST YEAR AND DISCUSSED A NUMBER OF STRATEGIC ISSUES LIKE PRINTING SA SUPPORT FOR THE PULP & PAPER INDUSTRY IN NIGERIA THROUGH PULP SEEDS PLANTATION, TRAINING AND SO ON; WHAT HAS BEEN THE OUTCOME OF YOUR MEETING WITH CIPPON?
The meeting had a clear understanding that some of these ideas such as pulp and paper industry support initiative will require much work and time in terms of research and development. Local paper production even in South Africa is very limited as it is in Nigeria; most printers import paper. However, we continue to engage industry role players to try and ascertain means of facilitating this strategic goal. In as far as training is concern, Printing SA has open its doors to students from all countries on the continent with only one major proviso at this stage being that the only language used as medium of instruction is English.
MOVING FORWARD, WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN THE PIPELINE FOR PRINT BODIES IN AFRICA IN TERMS OF COLLABORATION/ PARTNERSHIP?
The Printing SA Board has resolved as part of its growth strategy to help the various countries, where requested, with the establishment of trade organisations. It is envisaged that these bodies will initially be setup as Chambers of Printing SA and over time let them operate independently if the need arises.
CAN YOU ADVICE ON HOW PRINT BODIES CAN WORK SUCCESSFULLY WITH GOVERNMENT TO ACHIEVE THEIR AIMS?
It is important for trade organisations to retain their independence so that where the need arises for them to challenge whatever issues; they would be able to do so without fear or favour. This applies even with members as sometimes members' needs or expectations are opposed to each other. A trade organisation must act with integrity as that will result in it being respected by all. On the other hand, trade organisations must be open to working with partners which includes government and parastatals in dealing with the challenges such as unemployment and communication between government and members etc. Print bodies/Trade organisations must also provide 'servant leadership' – that is; lead on the basis that you are willing to serve those that you lead.
AS THE CEO OF PRINTING SA, WHAT WILL YOU DO DIFFERENTLY AS REGARDS REGULATION AND STANDARDISATION AND HUMAN CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT IN THE INDUSTRY?
I am on record as having had pointed out on a number of forums that I have a serious concern regarding the average age of the artesian in the industry. Of course, some may argue that technology will more than make up for the loss of skill. I am of the view that as an industry we must not just be consumers of other nations’ inventions but come up with our inventions. To do that, we need to have the skills and understanding. Simply put, we must not be just 'button pushers' but knowledgeable technicians and ultimately inventors.
Despite many negative messages that we have heard over the years such as paperless environment, print is still among the greatest innovations the world has ever experience and the good thing about it is that; innovations around (printing) are continuing to date.
Get to Know STEVE THOBELA
Steve Thobela started his career as a typographer, and was Regional Chairman of the Media Workers Association of South Africa. He worked in the print production departments of the Pretoria News, Perskor, the Sowetan and The Newspaper Printing Company before becoming Operations Manager of Independent Newspapers Cape. He holds a Christian Ministry Diploma, and founded and pastored the Grace Berean Church Soshanguve, the Grace Berean Church Montana in Cape Town and the Grace Berean Church Tshepisong in Krugersdorp. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree and recently completed his MBA.
He served for four and half years as the Founding General Manager of one of the three of Mr Mandela’s Official Charity Organisations: The Mandela Rhodes Foundation based in Cape Town. At which time he was also appointed on the Board of Oxford University Press. Prior to joining Printing SA on a full time basis he served as Director Print Production at the University of South Africa, Unisa. He joined Printing SA as the CEO designate in January 2014 and he was subsequently appointed CEO in January 2015.
Steve Thobela serves as an Alternate Trustee of the Printing Industries Pension Fund for South African Typographical Union (SATU) members; a member of board committees of the Fibre Processing & Manufacturing (FP&M) SETA; a Trustee of the Spectramed Medical Aid; a director of an International charity organization, Breakthrough Partners (BtP) and as the National President of the Association of Berean Grace Ministries in South Africa.