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Global Interest in the Eastern Cape Exports


East London - The 5th Eastern Cape Export Symposium, scheduled on 17 and 18 August at the East London ICC, is set to gain significant global attention due to the participation of trade and business delegations from various countries including BRICS.


This initiative encompasses a two-day conference, exhibition, and match-making meetings, attracting key players in global trade, including His Excellency Wamkele Mene, the Secretary General of The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Economic representatives from South Africa's pan-African trading partners, the EU, UK, and USA, will also be present, along with an inward-buying delegation from Brazil, Russia, India, and China.


The conference programme will feature discussions on developments and opportunities flowing from South Africa's key trade agreements, such as BRICS, AGOA, AfCFTA, and trade with the EU and the UK. Specific focus is being placed on understanding the opportunities to capitalise on supply chain shifts and trade agreement developments, and as a result, the symposium programme features a mix of experts and trade representatives to address these focus areas.


Distinguished international speakers, including HE Mene; Prof Melaku Desta: Coordinator Africa Trade Policy Centre at UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Roberto Cecutti: Head of Trade and Economics for EU Delegation in South Africa will share their insights.


Speakers of national prominence also featured in the programme include Dr Stavros Nicolaou: Group Senior Executive, Strategic Trade at Aspen Pharma Group; SA BRICS Council members, Tatiana Ndlovu: Chairperson of the E-commerce Forum South Africa; Corban Thomson: Lead Project Manager at International Trade Institute of Southern Africa; Shamiso Hlatshwayo: Acting GM Research of Brand South Africa; and Francois Fouche: Economist and Research fellow at The Centre for African Management & Markets at the Gordon Institute of Business Science.


The event will emphasise export resources available to bolster local businesses and explore opportunities in specific sectors, including Renewable Energy and trade in environmental services, sustainable manufacturing as well as the circular economy.


The global drive towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the increased availability of green finance, and the associated ambitions of firms and governments to improve their environmental performance are boosting the demand for quality environmental goods and services, while also creating new markets for recycled materials and products relating to the management of waste and the circular economy.


The session facilitated by Chiboni Evans: CEO of South African Electrotechnical Export Council, features prominent participants such as Gaylor Montmasson-Clair: Senior Economist & SAREM Facilitator, Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS); Gareth Burley: Business Development Executive, Microcare and Deshan Naidoo: Managing Director of AQORA Manufacturing and Mining.


Given that 50% of South Africa's automotive exports come from the Eastern Cape, a panel discussion focussing on the automotive industry will address the promotion of Automotive Exports from the region, as well as the role of both national and provincial governments in dealing with global challenges and optimisation of opportunities. Speakers for this discussion will include the AIDC EC’s Hoosain Mahomed; Maritza Redinger of DSV; and Siphiwe Mthembu the TNPA Port Manager of East London Port.


One of the breakaway sessions will highlight the potential of the BioFibres sector to boost the Eastern Cape economy, with a special focus on the emerging Eastern Cape Biofibre facility in the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which targets an undersupplied global market of bio-fibres and composites. Deliberating on this topic will be Meike Wetsch who is the Coega Development Corporation Head for Capital, Funding & Investment; Brian Van Rooyen, Director at Labat Africa; and Andy Radford, Director of The Composites Group.


Capability for fibre processing, and non-woven composites, including hemp and flax to produce bio-composites, boosts the government’s strategic intent to create a future cannabis (hemp) industry, aligning with the national draft masterplan to commercialise South Africa’s cannabis industry, which includes both dagga and hemp. This initiative will create 25 000 jobs and increase the Gross Domestic Product of the Eastern Cape by 1% over the next five years. This facility will allow emerging manufacturers that intend to produce for export to locate on the SEZ and enjoy the SEZ benefits.


Agricultural exports will also be a significant topic, with experts delving into opportunities and strategies to expand agricultural trade. This discussion will involve accomplished participants, such as Siphokazi Ndudane: HOD of the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform; Brent McNamara:CEO of Agri Eastern Cape as well as Marco Coetzee: GM at Mohair South Africa, among others.


Ayanda Wakaba, the CEO of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), states that the symposium aims to develop new markets and partnerships for trade, particularly focusing on the untapped export potential from the Eastern Cape Province. Wakaba highlights the strong representation of BRICS countries in South Africa's trade, with 17% of exports going to BRICS nations and 9% of imports coming from those countries.


As the Chair of BRICS in 2023, South Africa aims to enhance trade and investment, including intra-African trade, and advance the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA is seen as an opportunity for BRICS partners to invest in South Africa's infrastructure development. Wakaba emphasises the need for a partnership between BRICS and Africa to unlock mutually beneficial opportunities for trade, investment, and infrastructure development.


Wakaba further states that “With the Eastern Cape notably being a significant lemon producer, exporter of light vehicles, major livestock provider, and a large-scale producer of wool and mohair, the symposium presents an opportunity for the province to build relationships and showcase its export capabilities, with a focus on understanding supply chain shifts and trade agreements like AfCFTA, AGOA, BRICS, and trade with the EU and UK.”


“The attendance of local, national, and international trade representatives provides a unique opportunity for the region to build relationships and showcase our export capability. It also importantly provides our export role-players with first-hand analysis and updates on the resources, incentives, and opportunities for trade with new and existing trade partners,’’ Wakaba says.

Under the theme "Global Trade Developments: Opportunity knocks!" and hosted by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) in collaboration with Buffalo City Metro and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, the symposium targets exporters and the wider export community, including policymakers, with a focus on Africa.

Former Trade Forward Southern Africa Director, Rob Moodie, who was one of 26 presenters on the conference programme in 2022 lauded the Eastern Cape Province and its business community: “It is marvellous to see the level of cooperation and working together that was demonstrated in this initiative. I haven’t seen this level of collaboration in any other province in South Africa,’’ he said.


Kenya-based Sub-Saharan Chamber of Trade CEO Claire Dawai described the conference sessions as “mind-blowing”. “It is a great experience to have come to South Africa for the first time for this event. I am passionate about the agenda and forging mutual and long-lasting relationships that have been initiated here."


The Eastern Cape MEC for Finance and Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Hon. Mlungisi Mvoko, said that opening trade in new markets was key with AFCFTA being a potential “game changer for Africa’s economic development”. “To this end, we need to deepen partnerships with trade partners to realise the full potential."


Registration to attend as a conference and workshop delegate or exhibition visitor is free and open online at: www.ecexportsymposium.co.za


Issued by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation

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