The inorganic chemical business in South Africa is so closely tied in with organic chemicals that it often gets lost in the muddle. When one thinks of the organic and inorganic in South Africa, it usually gets directed to a simplification of living things versus non-living things or animal and plants versus non-animal and plants. Here lies the problem because many of the organic chemical processes are intertwined with inorganic chemical processes.
What is an Inorganic Factor?
An inorganic chemical is any element or compound that contains minimal to no amount of hydrogen and carbon. Any high school student will tell you that hydrogen and carbon are two of the six elements needed to sustain life. The other 4 elements are oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulphur. Another set of terms used is biotic and abiotic wherein inorganic is abiotic or “without life.”
In South Africa more emphasis is placed in biotic because it is a country rich with biotic factors like the Big 5, millions of animal, insect, and bird species, abundance in flora and fauna. On the other hand, everyone takes for granted temperature, moisture, light, and air currents which are abiotic factors.
Industries that Depend on Inorganic Chemistry
Three of the industries that depend heavily on inorganic chemicals are the environmental, education and science sectors. For example, a chemist would be hired by a company to come up with a cleaning product for the home, and to do this he would have to work with inorganic chemicals. However, even those all-natural cleaning products being sold have a little bit of inorganic chemicals in them. This doesn’t mean it’s not natural. It only means that metal ions were used in the process.
The other industries in South Africa that are highly dependent on inorganic compounds are pharmaceuticals, plastics, and fuel. In the entire region, South Africa has the largest inorganic chemical industry. These 3 industries alone contributed R318 million to the country’s GDP last 2011 and employs over 200,000 South Africans. It’s a far cry from the global demand for inorganic chemicals which amounts to over US$ 4.12 trillion as of end of 2011. The role of South Africa is seen as becoming a major force in the near future because of its access to inorganic materials. As of now, South Africa is the global leader in gas-to-liquid technology and coal-based synthesis. The country is also equipped with the world’s most cost-effective method of producing propylene which is a raw material used for making alcohol, acrylic, oxo chemicals, and propylene glycol which is used to make anti-freeze for cars and de-icers.
Aside from propylene, South Africa is able to produce ethylene with the same excellent cost effective methods. Ethylene is used by companies for manufacturing anti-freeze, antiseptics, polyester material, PET bottles, and solvents among others.
In most chemical companies in the country and elsewhere, inorganic chemicals are considered secondary sectors and tend to take a backseat to organic chemicals. This means it is largely an underdeveloped industry with vast potential, much like the property market in areas like Mamelodi. In the same way, investment in this industry could be as profitable as checking out the houses for sale in Mamelodi!