24
The Emergence of South Africa as an Industrial Nation

The Growth of Industry

Until the Great Depression of 1929-32 South Africa was essentially a primary producer depending on exports of gold, diamonds, wool, and maize with which to pay for manufactured goods of all kinds. Agriculture, mining, and commerce provided employment for most of the people and although some industries had been established manufacturing was relatively unimportant. The realization that industrial development was essential in order to provide employment for the 'Poor White' population, had, however, led to the enactment of far-reaching measures between 1918 and 1928 - the establishment of an Electricity Supply Commission in 1922, the creation of a Government- sponsored Iron and Steel Corporation (ISCOR) in 1928, provisions for training South African youth in skilled occupations and for the regulation of factory working conditions between 1918 and 1925 and the introduction of a new customs tariff imposing heavy duties on imported manufactured goods in 1924. The onset of the Great Depression brought a temporary setback to industrial development, but the abandonment of the gold standard inaugurated a period of expansion in gold-mining which in turn stimulated industrial enterprise. At the same time the low world prices for agricultural commodities severely hit the farming community and increasing numbers of people sought employment in the towns.

During the late 1930's many industries were established so that at the outbreak of war in 1939 South Africa was already emerging as an industrial nation, although mining still dominated her economic life. During the war she was cut off from overseas supplies of manufactured goods and under the protection thereby afforded rapidly developed a variety of industries utilizing her own raw materials (see Fig. 144). After 1945 the general world shortage and consequent high price of many manufactured and semi-manufactured goods, especially steel and machinery, at a time when new goldfields were being developed, ensured the continued expansion of existing industries. At the same time the prospects of spacious sites,

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