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International trade partnership creates opportunity for robust export growth for SMEs

The Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), in collaboration with the Chamber’s long standing partners Standard Bank and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), on behalf of the German Government, this week announced the official launch of its joint SME Export Incubator.

The Incubator aims to facilitate the growth of black-owned South African small to medium enterprises (SMEs) by building a robust export culture through creating international trade opportunities.

Since the call for incubatees last year, the Chamber, together with Standard Bank and GIZ have successfully housed eleven incubatees at the Chamber’s offices and are able to take on another thirty-five black-owned SMEs, to further expand the reach and impact of the project.

“The Chamber has a long history of promoting and facilitating international trade since its inception 125 years ago,” says Adv. Fay Mukaddam President of the JCCI. “By leveraging our experience and long standing relationships across various other markets – both within Africa and internationally – we, along with Standard Bank and GIZ, are well placed to offer these SMEs guidance. The support that these business owners will gain through this incubator programme will see their businesses – and in response our economy – leap into its next growth phase, especially if one considers the facts.”

According to the Banking Association of South Africa, it is estimated that SMEs provide employment to about 60% of the labour force locally and total economic output accounts for roughly 34% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

“Over-and-above the substantial contribution by the SME sector to the country’s GDP, SMEs are also crucial drivers of employment that have a direct impact on inclusive growth and social development – and is most critical for our economy,” continues Mukaddam.

“Assisting these businesses to grow, by empowering them to become keen exporters, makes good economic and business sense – and for those involved with the business. That said, however, exporting is not a straight forward approach, it’s a complicated process with many pitfalls for the unwary – where we have seen how costly their mistakes can be. This Incubator therefore provides comprehensive support, training and access to business advisory services to navigate through the complexities and potential pitfalls.”

Although the incubator is in its novice phase, there has been a notable interest in the SME Export Incubator and the success of the Incubator programme in South Africa will most likely lend itself to be duplicated in other African countries.

“The SME Export Incubator provides a great opportunity for SMEs wanting to expand into the rest of Africa’s high-growth countries, which are becoming more attractive as export destinations to increase sales and the sustainability of their businesses. As a leading integrated financial services group on the African continent, with a heritage of over 150 years, Standard Bank not only provides access to finance on-the-ground, but we also have the capacity and know-how to provide business development support and advisory services based on our vast knowledge of African markets,” says Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank.

When exporting and doing business in Africa, businesses need to undertake in-depth research and analysis and establish key relationships with the relevant legislative bodies. “As such, Public Private Partnership’s (PPPs) like these not only ensure sustainable economic development, it also provides valuable insight and skills transfer for the incubatees as they will access to information and networks to help them accelerate,” says Mukaddam.

Over the last year, the initial eleven incubatees have been mentored and received general business training and comprehensive export training by experts from the Chamber and Standard Bank, alike.

“Standard Bank has provided qualified mentors and subject matter experts to share their knowledge and expertise with the incubates,” adds Nyembe.

Ambassador Lindner highlighted GIZ’s contribution to the project: “GIZ, on behalf of the German Government, is supporting the implementation of the Export Incubator, which will provide a secure environment for the selected incubatees to develop. This initiative will support them to grow their businesses and access new markets.

Further to this, the partnership is looking to replicate the Incubator model, not only in South Africa, but also regionally.”

“Through these committed collaborative efforts and cementing ties with strategic partners, the export incubator will continue to facilitate entrepreneurial growth. Moreover, by entrenching relationships that contribute to being relevant and authentic in unlocking the value of PPPs in business today, we will be able to continue fast-tracking small business’ sustainable growth, as well as further strengthening our economy,” concludes Mukaddam.

How to get involved:

While the South African economic growth has been slow of late due to internatonal and local influencers, SMEs shouldn’t feel despondent as there are many opportunities available for growth. As such, if they have a business with a strong value proposition (in terms of a product or service that can be exported) – and the courage to drive their business dreams forward, they are encouraged to take the first step, by contacting the Incubator for 2016 enrolments. SMEs who are selected will receive:
Ø Office space and facilities
Ø Three year training programme covering all aspects of exporting and general business management
Ø Guidance on product packaging and marketing
Ø Mentoring by qualified personnel with extensive experience
Ø The opportunity to attend Chamber workshops on how to do business in various countries
Ø Access to diverse export promotion activities, such as participating in missions to foreign markets and in exhibitions

Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI)

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