5 Things You Didn’t Know Were Made In SA

Clinton Matos goes in search of globally recognised products and services that are as local as Mrs Balls.

1. German cars

Domestic car sales are flat, but South Africa’s motor vehicle exports are booming. 2016 was another record year, with sales of passenger cars to other countries up by 3.8%. The Volkswagen factory in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, celebrated a milestone in March this year as the 1 250 000th Polo rolled off its assembly line. Around 70% of the cars’ parts are sourced locally and built by South African hands, and more than half of those assembled are exported elsewhere.

German cars are incredibly popular in South Africa, so it might surprise some that so many are manufactured here – and that Germany is actually our largest export market. It’s not unheard of for the circle to complete fully, and for German brands to place orders at South African factories for their own prestigious marques.

2. The Mark II VR headset

Alt Reality, based in the DIZ makerspace in Braamfontein, is a different kind of virtual reality company. Alt Reality makes custom VR headsets, controllers and software experiences on order.

IBM, Jaguar and Denel Aviation have all used its services. Its newest project, however, goes even further into the realm of the extraordinary.

The Mark II headset was created when founder Rick Treweek found people unwilling to put on VR headsets because of the intrusive straps that wrap around the head.

His solution was to remove the straps and add a handle, making the headset more akin to a masquerade mask or a pair of opera binoculars.

3. LEGO Tape

Everyone loves LEGO, which is why it’s the one thing you find everywhere, from kindergartens to boardrooms. What if LEGO didn’t just stick to itself, though? What if you could build LEGO constructs anywhere? The internet thinks that would be a great idea, as, earlier this year, a crowdfunding campaign to commercialise an adhesive tape with studs on the back for LEGO blocks raised over a million dollars.

The creators, Max Basler and Anine Kirsten, hail from Cape Town’s Chrome Cherry Design Studio. Nimuno Loops is a distinctively local product that should be available everywhere where there is LEGO in August 2017.

4. The Marauder

Plenty of South Africans watch Top Gear, and they’ll likely remember the episode in which Richard Hammond terrorised the inhabitants of Joburg in an armoured car. That vehicle – the Marauder – was born here as a product of the Paramount Group, founded in the country and currently operating in Sandton.

While busting through walls and acting as a chair for lions may have been some fluff for TV, the end segment where the Marauder shrugs off an explosion from 3kg of plastic explosives is exactly what it was built to do.

5. World-beating cartoons

When you load up Cape Town-based Triggerfish’s site, and you’re greeted by the term “Africa’s leading animation studio”, you’d better believe it. Its best-known films, Zambezia and Khumba, attracted such talents as Liam Neeson, Samuel L Jackson, the late Leonard Nimoy and more – and that’s just the voice acting.

Both movies have won accolades, and the animated short, Stick Man, from 2015, won the Le Cristal award from the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Annecy is referred to as the “Oscars for animation”, and it wouldn’t be too unexpected for Triggerfish to one day win an Oscar proper. Its next project, due out at Christmas 2017, is an adaptation of children’s book The Highway Rat.

 

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