Johannesburg - South Africa plans to spend R5.8bn over the next three years to help manufacturers affected by the global economic downturn upgrade their factories, improve products and train workers, the trade minister said on Monday. Rob Davies said the Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme would be put in place next month and it comes as South Africa has set out a massive infrastructure programme to create jobs at home and increase trade on the continent. “The barrier to us trading amongst ourselves is infrastructure. We don’t have infrastructure that joins us. We only have infrastructure that takes raw materials to the port,” Davies told a news conference. Economists doubt the effectiveness of such programmes especially after African National Congress governments have spent billions to train workers and improve competitiveness, only to see large sums laid to waste by corruption and as the ranks of unemployed swell. South Africa has lost ground in several manufacturing sectors because of the high cost and low productivity of its workforce. The average South African factory worker makes about six times more than a Chinese factory worker and is less efficient, according to data from the governments. Davies said the government launched a pilot programme in the textile sector to some success.