/ 4 November 2023

KwaZulu-Natal entrepreneurs head to Cairo for Africa trade fair

Egyptian Economy Amid Historic Currency Slump
(Islam Safwat/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN) is taking a group of entrepreneurs to the Intra-African Trade Fair in Cairo as part of efforts to grow small, medium and micro enterprise manufacturing and trade in the province under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).

The entity and its partners, the Small Enterprise Development Agency, Transnet and the department of trade, industry and competition supported the trip to showcase the province’s goods, increase exports, expand production and create jobs, TKZN acting chief executive Sihle Ngcamu said at a send-off event in Durban on Friday.

The fair, which takes place from 9 to 15 November, is expected to attract 35 000 visitors from 75 countries and see$43 billion in trade and investment deals closed.

“Trade between KZN and Africa as a continent is already valued at over R60 billion and that is made up of R8 billion in imports and about R52 billion is what we export, so we have an excellent trade balance as a province of getting our goods out there,” Ngcamu said.

“Trade also encourages cooperation between regions and countries rather than confrontation.”

South Africa is in third position in terms of its contribution to Africa’s GDP but boasts a diversified economy that is not reliant on one sector for its exports, unlike top performers Egypt and Nigeria.

“It is not only about going to Egypt but about creating jobs back home and expanding production, and you are going to increase your earnings in your business which will accrue to the GDP of this province,” Ngcamu said.

Entrepreneurs in the agricultural, vehicle, food, health, clothing and textile sectors are among those who will display their products at the trade fair under the government’s Buy KZN Product campaign.

Economic development, tourism and environmental affairs acting head Thandeka Ellenson said her department was “going big on processing” in the province.

“We would like to see all the producers here owning big factories and producing their goods locally. I think if we can achieve that we will become a producing nation,” she said.

“Research shows us the most successful countries are the ones that research innovation and production. We need to think about large-scale production, and that will help us to grow the economy of our province and the country.”

Ellerson said the dynamics of global trade had also changed as Eastern countries now sought their own currency.

“We are now in a multi-polar world where we are moving away from the West but even though the East is still there — what about Africa, which is in the middle? The move we are embarking on next week is to have Africa in the centre, after all we hold the economy of the world with our minerals and resources. Let the West and the East come here and buy our products,” she said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, entrepreneur Sue Hadcroft, co-founder of Pietermaritzburg-based Cucibile Solutions that manufactures toilet and change room cubicles, lockers and benches, said she had expanded her business by increasing exports to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Rwanda. 

“This trip to Egypt is an opportunity to build the business in the whole of Africa and not just the sub-Saharan region and also gives me the chance to work with mining organisations in Africa where I have already had success,” Hadcroft said.

“If it was not for TKZN and the DTiC [department of trade, industry and competition] I would not be where I am today in the business,” she said.

Steven Mabugana, co-founder of Khanyitex, a clothing manufacturing “cut, make and trim” business in Hammarsdale said he was hoping to grow his business to export into the rest of Africa. 

He has already negotiated a R20 million deal to export denim workwear to supply the market in Rwanda, which imports all denim as there is no local manufacturing plant in the country, a gap he also hopes to fill one day, by expanding into the region.