The drive up through Surrey was a bit stickier than it should have been at 6.30 am, but once I got onto the A3 it was all go. After a short wiggle through Wimbledon Village, I arrived on the south eastern side of the common and Cannizaro House Hotel. What a gem! A great big imposing, 300 year old building overlooking the park.
The speedy registration at the South Africa Trade Event was the only barrier to a cup of Joe and a bacon and egg roll. Two of those did the job! I always secretly find it kind of amusing that all the delegates are trying to shake hands, drink coffee, read the welcome pack, eat and network all at the same time, at 8am. After all that we headed off to the conference room to begin the day.
Expanding trade relations between the UK and South Africa
Ian Smith kicked things off with Chris Trott being beamed in from Cape Town – what a wonderful tool Skype is. Ian and Chris both highlighted the expanding trade relations between the UK and South Africa and that there were plenty of opportunities out there for intrepid entrepreneurs.
This was further highlighted by Avi Lasarow of Trimega Laboratories. He has a very successful company with offices in Manchester, Cape Town and Germany. Some of his success can be accredited to his relationship with UKTI and the advice and support that the organization offers to people who want to do business between South Africa and the United Kingdom. His direct advice was:
Leverage the South Africa media
Spend time on your company setup and legal agreements
Protect your intellectual property
Invest in some PR
Do a big product launch
Have a vision and keep it alive by moving forward every day
Yusuf Timol, from the South African High Commission had a tough job as the purveyor of good news and spent some time going through the cold hard facts and figures related to the South African economy and its trade with the United Kingdom. South Africa’s inclusion in the BRICS group should give investors a much needed boost in morale, as should the general state of South Africa economy and its excellent and well regulated financial sector.
Doing business in the SADC region
Companies wanting to do business in South Africa should also figure the SADC region into their sales and marketing plans. This 13 member group has 200 million consumers. By 2015 there will be a FTA (Free Trade Agreement) that will stretch from Libya to South Africa and have 600 million consumers. This represents huge potential and there will be exciting opportunities in:
Global sporting events
At question and answer time Yusuf had to deal with a difficult question on security of visitors. He looked a little tired when he answered as I am sure he has had to respond to this same questions many times before. He said that yes, South Africa does have crime issues, but most of those crimes are in areas of social and economic depravity and would not normally affect the normal visitor. He also mentioned the fact that “bad news sells”. This is spot on, as it is easier for foreign papers to report on the bad rather than the good. What are they doing to counteract the bad press? They seem fairly busy on the social media scene and are currently running an ad campaign to “Leave the Ordinary Behind” so are these issues being addressed enough?
The world of sport
After the half time oranges, we went into a presentation from Robert Walker. He went on to highlight two companies that have done very well in the world of sports. One in broadcasting and one in branding and mascots. What did come out during his session was the need for better digital exposure – websites in particular. He said that in his experience most companies needed to up their game plan with regards their websites, which I agree.
The Olympic Torch
After the formal part of the morning there was a sports-oriented ending, with the arrival of the Olympic Torch (a replica). The design is fascinating. Three-sided, multi-holed and very light. The 8,000 holes represent each of the people that will carry it on the relay … and the triangular-shape was inspired by a series of ‘threes’ that are found in the history of the Olympic Games and the vision for the Olympic Movement:
The three Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship;
The three words that make the Olympic motto – faster, higher, stronger;
The fact that the UK has hosted the Olympic Games in 1908, 1948 and will host them for the third time in 2012; and
The vision for the London 2012 Olympic Games to combine three bodies of work – sport, education and culture.
Hey, I even got to hold the torch, just sorry for the double chin. Anyway we plan to light up 2012, go for gold, make the nation proud …..
Photograph courtesy of Keith Hern Photography www.keithhern.com