Sector profile

About the KwaZulu-Natal chemicals industry

KwaZulu-Natal is a national leader in the production of chemicals and plastics and the majority of KwaZulu-Natal’s chemicals output is produced within the eThekwini municipality. In 2015, 21% of the South African gross value added from the chemicals manufacturing industry came from KwaZulu-Natal. This translates to provincial gross value added from the sector of R22.1bn. A total of 32 131 people were employed directly by the chemicals industry in the province in 2015 and 69% of these employed persons reside in the eThekwini region.

The local industry has seen a steady compound average growth rate of 3,3% year-on-year since 2012 and while this lags behind provincial growth averages in some other sectors, the chemicals manufacturing industry remains a significant contributor to provincial and local economic development and growth.

Chemical production in South Africa

The chemicals sector in South Africa is the largest of its kind in Africa, and it is highly diversified. The South African chemicals industry contributes 5% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), while the local petrochemicals sector is the largest sector contributor to the chemicals industry in South Africa, with a contribution of 55%. The chemicals sector largely comprises producer-driven value chains, based on high levels of industrial capital investment. Firms that compete in producer driven chains develop core competencies that lie in research and development as well as production capabilities.

Five major value chains appear to dominate the chemicals manufacturing landscape in eThekwini both in terms of perceived manufacturing value added and employment:

  1. Coatings, inks, adhesives and dyes
  2. Petroleum and gas
  3. Pulp and paper
  4. Resins and polymers
  5. Water treatment