County Durham businesses join virtual trade mission to South Africa
The photo was taken on the trade mission last year (2019) before social distancing rules came into force.

Businesses from across County Durham and the North East took part in a virtual trade mission to South Africa to explore export opportunities.

The trade mission, organised by Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council, Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa and the North East Chamber of Commerce took place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The delegation included thirteen North East businesses from a range of industries including chemical, renewable energy, automotive, real estate and education including the following County Durham companies: One Awards, Lingotot International Limited, Thorn Lighting, Furniture Clinic and Helix Innovations International Limited.

The aim of the mission was for delegates to build on the North East’s strong relationship with South Africa and to explore the country’s export opportunities.  With new challenges for businesses on the horizon including Brexit it was an opportunity for businesses to look for potential new business.

The North East delegation attended their virtual trip to KwaZulu-Natal, Durban in South Africa on September 8, where they were welcomed by Nomusa Dube-Ncube, MEC of Economic Development, Tourism & Environmental Affairs, and Nigel Casey, the UK Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa.

Delegates then listened to presentations from James Ramsbotham, CEO of North East England Chamber of Commerce; Richard Swart, Honorary Vice President of NEECC and International Relations Director for the South African Chamber of Commerce in UK; Kuseni Dlamini, Chairman of Aspen Pharmacare and Massmart; Palesa Phili, CEO of Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Neville Matjie, CEO of TIKZN.

A reciprocal mission will take place on November 5th and up to 15 South African businesses will have the opportunity to find out more about County Durham and the North East.

These virtual trade missions build on the successful mission to South Africa a year ago which saw thirteen North East businesses visit the country and has since resulted in many of the companies making new contacts and securing new contracts.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration at Durham County Council said: “It is fantastic that we have been able to go ahead with the trade mission virtually to ensure that companies across County Durham, the North East and South Africa are able to explore the growing business and export opportunities available. 

“Attending these missions can lead to many benefits for all companies involved so I’ve been delighted to lead this event in conjunction with the Department for International Trade. I look forward to seeing strong links between the two countries being further developed over the coming weeks, when the reciprocal mission showcases some of our most ambitious companies and significant investments here in County Durham.”

Sarah Slaven, Interim Managing Director of Business Durham, said: “We know that businesses that export are more competitive and successful, and the trade mission is an excellent opportunity for County Durham businesses to take advantage of the growing export opportunities in South Africa.

“Following Brexit it is vital that we help businesses explore new international opportunities in terms of trade and investment and we’re looking forward to building on the strong links that we have developed between County Durham, the North East and South Africa and to enable local businesses in both countries to grow and thrive.

“We are excited to see how the delegates will benefit from attending the mission, and to support each of the companies to expand into the overseas market.”

Fabienne Bailey, managing director at One Awards who have been involved in the trade missions said: “Our trade mission to Johannesburg was very successful from the start.  We were matched with relevant partners in Johannesburg to encourage business connections and from this we have been able to generate new income from centres using our qualifications but even greater than this, we have been able to be part of the creation of the Halo Hope Project South Africa, which raises awareness of gender based violence and aims to up skill and empower individuals, with our role as the education and skills advisor.”

“We thoroughly enjoyed the experience of connecting with the Durban Chamber of Commerce whilst in South Africa and we have been able to continue conversations with them to share ideas on tackling youth unemployment.  We are due to sign an MOU with them very soon with us acting as the education and skills consultants for an apprenticeship pilot scheme.”

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