South Africa and the United Kingdom enjoy a unique and effective trade relationship that has been developed over many hundreds of years. The relationship is advantageous to both countries, and especially now in the post Brexit circumstances.
South Africans may consider the Rand-Pound exchange rate advantageous for trade, and it is, but there is so much more to ensure successful international trade than relying merely on the favourable exchange rate. Rightly noted, if South Africa did not have a favourable foreign exchange rate there would be little hope of South Africa having any trade advantage at all. However, this is not enough on its own, and hence the recognition and use of networks and experienced business professionals being essential in setting up and securing profitable and sustainable international trade routes.
David White and his teams at DRG and BusinessFit have since 2017 been travelling back and forth to the United Kingdom to identify these essential networks, and to meet and establish relationships with other business professionals to help open the doors to ‘simple trade’ between South Africa and the United Kingdom.
The focus of these trips has been centred around the South African Chamber of Commerce in London (SACC). The SACC is an umbrella organisation and conduit for trade, community, and investment into and out of South Africa. The SACC aims to bring under one concerted effort, a forum and meeting point for businesses who have an interest in both the United Kingdom and South Africa, in an attempt to facilitate the development of business opportunities.
DRG and BusinessFit joined the SACC in 2017 as Platinum members. This created the opportunity for David and his colleagues to meet and interact directly with SACC Exco and board members, to be involved in SACC functions, and to sponsor events such as the SACC Best Entrepreneur Award. In David’s words, “As Platinum members we were given red carpet treatment, and were introduced personally to the likes of Nomatemba Tambo, Lord Peter Hain, Dennis Zietsman, and to share our passions and collaborations with CEO Sharon Constancon. Mike Miller, the past founder and CEO of the SACC, literally took us under his wing and showed us what is possible in creating opportunities for South African business leaders to learn about, understand, interact with, and successfully trade with organisations in the United Kingdom.
David as CEO of DRG and chairman of BusinessFit has led the relationship development and trade conduit initiative from South Africa, and in recent months has taken on the role of South African Chapter Leader for the SACC. This role is exclusively focused on supporting trade facilitation between South Africa and the United Kingdom, and vice versa. David says this role is critical in bridging the gap in ensuring successful trade for new market entrants between South Africa and the United Kingdom.
David says that setting up a simple trade conduit has been his primary focus since 2017. The help and guidance from members of the SACC Exco and a business assessment process, developed by himself and Mike Miller, has aided the process incredibly well. Successes to date have included introducing:
- A South African accounting firm to a United Kingdom organisation to learn about providing back-end bookkeeping services to United Kingdom companies
- An organisation teaching painting skills in rural areas in South Africa to various outlets in the United Kingdom to sell their completed painted items that have been converted into bags, table runners, cushion covers, etc.
- A South African chocolate manufacturer seeking new markets in the United Kingdom
- A successful South African farming company using rural farmers to grow crops appropriate for United Kingdom markets
- A South African scientist who created a portable pyrolysis machine that converts plastic into biofuel, and many more interesting initiatives.
The aim is always to keep the process as simple as possible, helping entrepreneurs and pioneering business leaders to better understand local market conditions in the United Kingdom, and being introduced into networks and to industry specialists.
One of the first questions we ask business leaders, says David, is, “Have you been successfully trading in South Africa, as if you have not yet been successful in South Africa, then what makes you consider that your products will sell successfully in the United Kingdom.” A second question…
“Are you aware of the sophisticated United Kingdom market, and have you considered the reasons your products will be able to compete within the global economy.” The process encourages entrepreneurs and business leaders to recognise that the United Kingdom has trade partners from across the world, and that as the United Kingdom is a large consumer of goods and services, only best quality and well-priced products and services will be attractive to consumers, industry, and government.
In discussions with South African entrepreneurs and business leaders, we often find that there is a limited awareness of international business practices and expectations. In these circumstances we assist these business leaders with sustainability discussions, ensuring that matters such as cold chain management, timeliness in shipping goods from South Africa, governance, reporting and standards, payment term norms, etc., are well considered and included into business models and cash flow projections.
The South Africa Chapter Leader function includes providing trade support for companies moving (or considering moving) from the United Kingdom to South Africa. Setting up business operations in a new country is as everyone can imagine, enormously complex, and requires suitable support partners in banking, human resources, legal, accounting, B-BBEE, market intelligence, mobility and other.
These South African support partners are affiliated to the SACC and provide confidence to international companies enquiring and engaging assistance to ensure their in-country operation is compliant and following governance and best practice expectation within South Africa.
The SACC is largely made up of South African people, who are well known for not only their ability to ‘make things happen’, but also for their supporting, kind, and engaging manner. The SACC takes an interest in everyone, and according to the membership category the organisation has chosen, so too is effort and support shared. As an example, an SME member will receive newsletter and website exposure, invention opportunities, introductions, and an ability to contribute to the community awards evening. A Platinum member will receive these same benefits plus specifically tailored projects designed to meet member’s needs, engagements and introductions, round table meetings, webinars specific to the company’s service/product, seminars, speaking at events, tailored face to face functions, and more. There are individual membership categories, as well as the Silver, Gold and Strategic categories.
The SACC has close ties with the British Chamber, and the two organisations are able to work together to support trade between South Africa and the United Kingdom. Members of the SACC therefore have a huge advantage in being able to access information, tap into existing networks, receive support and encouragement, and gain insights into possible new opportunities.
Deciding if your business is going to be successful and sustainable in trading internationally starts with discovering your organisation’s specific target market and working through the value chain to ensure there is advantage to potential customers and consumers. This is the work of the SACC and their networks.
To support the achievement of these goals, the SACC has chapter leaders in many specific locations, each chamber leader defining their portfolio around specific local member needs, but all are focused on encouraging effective trade into and out of South Africa and the United Kingdom. The chapter leaders include: John Mulder – Emerald Isle; Natalie Finlayson and Maree Wilms – Professional Women; Tania Verdonk – East of England; Ferial Puren – Scotland; June Whiteman – Isle of Man; and David White – South Africa.
For anyone wishing to know more about how the SACC can support their desire to help their business thrive in an international market, specifically the United Kingdom, we look forward to speaking and sharing our passion with you. You will do well to visit our organisation website www.southafricanchamber.co.uk contacting David White, or any of the specific area SACC chapter leaders.