This year’s expo. Picture: Leon Lestrade African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - Getting KwaZulu-Natal businesses to recognise the global export opportunities that exist for their goods and products is the focus of the seventh annual KwaZulu-Natal Export Week.

The event, which has the theme “Think Global: KZN the African Trade Hub” and is an initiative of Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN), started yesterday at the Durban International Convention Centre.

This year’s expo highlights the significance of exports to the KZN economy and celebrates the success of KZN exporters.

TIKZN chief executive Neville Matjie, who was officially appointed on October 1, said he was “excited” and “proud” to continue spreading the message about the need to export and why the province’s businesses should be exporting products into key markets.

“Sometimes you think that you’ve got to export to the US, Europe, Australia or Switzerland and you don’t even look at (the African) continent itself. There’s a huge opportunity for you to move your products into the continent,” said Matjie.

More than 600 attendees will be given the opportunity to meet and network with global trade partners and associations from 15 countries across Africa and the world during the five-day expo.

They will also be given tips on how to build a global business from 50 leading service providers and learn about the latest technologies and services on offer.

TIKZN chairperson Ina Cronje said although trade was an important engine of economic growth, many African countries had not fully realised this potential.

“We are very far as Africa from realising this potential and the continent’s 3% share of global trade is really not good enough. We need to improve by 97%,” said Cronje.

While Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala was meant to deliver the keynote address, he was unable to attend the event and his speech was delivered by Human Settlements MEC Ravi Pillay.

Pillay said the event had become a pilgrimage for entrepreneurs engaged in the various export sectors of the economy and celebrated the success of the province’s finest export-oriented companies.

“As government, we see this week as an opportunity to cast a spotlight on business leaders involved with the development of our export markets which earn our country much-valued foreign currency.”

He said delegates would hear how KZN companies have been able to become successful exporters servicing different world markets.

“The successful exporters in this room are testimony that distance, foreign business cultures, and mental barriers can be successfully overcome through knowledge, collaboration and sheer determination.”

He added that the country’s small and undiversified export base exposed it to turbulences in global trade. “We continue to rely on exporting primary goods which are easily affected by market volatility and thus resulting in weaker export results.”

Pillay said KZN had many factors in its favour to become the centre of diversified export growth including major institutions of higher learning, international companies providing hi-tech skills, natural endowments and a wealth of experience in export markets.

“Our two ports, Durban and Richards Bay, offer unmatched benefits to manufacturers and exporters domiciled in KZN, and Durban remains South Africa’s busiest container handling port.”

Pillay said the country’s national export strategy was geared to achieve an annual 6% export-led growth by 2030 as envisaged in the National Development Plan. “Export-led growth has a great potential to be a catalyst for entrepreneurial development in the various value chains of manufactured exports and service exports,” he said.

The Mercury