Jendamark Automation managing director Quinton Uren was named Africa’s Industrialist of the Year at the grand finale of the All Africa Business Leaders Awards, hosted by CNBC Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on November 29.

Uren, whose Port Elizabeth-based automation company exports manufacturing assembly solutions to 18 countries worldwide, beat out business leaders from Southern, West and East Africa for the overall title at the eighth annual continental awards.

These included fellow South African finalists Nampak CEO Andre de Ruyter, Likoebe Innovation Consultants founder Nneile Nkholise, and Nana Sebelo, CEO of Thata uBeke Manufacturing.

Speaking after the ceremony, Uren said the award was a “massive recognition for what Jendamark as a South African company, has achieved in the export market”.

Since co-founding the small automotive engineering firm in 1992, Uren and his fellow directors have grown the company into a global automation leader with local offices in PE, East London and Pretoria, and an international presence in Pune in India, Penzing in Germany, and Detroit in the USA. Today, exports account for more than 90% of the group’s business.

“The dedication and hard work of our home-grown talented team creates success. We operate in a very competitive manufacturing sector, and we succeed globally,” added Uren.

He attributed this success to balancing sound engineering solutions, driven by the latest Industry 4.0 technologies, with good financial direction.

While the economic outlook remained “tough”, Uren said having a global market strategy is continuing to prove to be best.

“We need to believe in ourselves and our local talent and apply ourselves to the available global markets.”

He said investing in Industry 4.0 was the competitive edge that would help attract investment and transform South African businesses and the continent, enabling on-the-job upskilling and job creation through skills development using virtual reality and augmented reality technology, among other high-tech tools.

“Industry 4.0 and how it pertains to the South African environment is the next big thing for us. It’s not about automation but about developing software technologies that can help our various industries and country become more efficient, effective, and transformed. Together, we can change the landscape, but we have to move quickly or that landscape will become barren.”

On a personal level, Uren, 53, said his award showed that anyone could make it.

“As someone who was classified as ‘coloured’, I come from an underprivileged background. There were no silver spoons, just having the correct intent, hard work and taking advantage of the opportunities I got.

“Today, there are fewer barriers than before and with the technologies that are available to most, young people have amazing tools to succeed. I have hope and proof that it’s possible.”