Fourteen entrepreneurs comprising of 12 businesses returned to South Africa last week following a successful International Trade Programme (ITP) to the UK. This is the third such trade trip for South African entrepreneurs in two years and the results for their businesses and job creation back home are proving to be very positive.
The ITP aims to stimulate trade between South African entrepreneurs and UK partners, fast tracking the growth of local entrepreneurial businesses which are key to economic growth and job creation in this country. Hundreds of entrepreneurs from across the country applied with the most successful being chosen during a rigorous selection and training process at the end of 2013.
Made possible by MEDO - which connects large companies (annual turnover above R35 million) with emerging and smaller enterprises - and sponsored by British Telecom Global Services (BT), this tour yielded its best success rate ever. Success is based on actual agreements concluded.
Bjarke Gotfredsen, Joint CEO & Co-founder, MEDO, says: “Our first tour had a success rate of 20%, our second 50% and this one I would say anywhere between 70 to 80%.” The success is due to a number of factors. “The entrepreneurs are more prepared for the tour every year and as tour facilitators we have also learnt where to go and we have built up better connections. For example, where we stayed this time was better for the entrepreneurs in terms of getting around as it did not take as much time as previously experienced.”
He also says their partners in the UK are better prepared. “Our UK partners put in a big effort and they have been building on the momentum from the first tour. Coventry University was extremely insightful for example, hosting 10 lecturers presenting not just on technology, but also on entrepreneurship. Each entrepreneur also gave a short presentation on their businesses and ideas and connections were then brainstormed with the experts at Coventry University.”
“This was also the first time that BT sent two representatives on the tour and it was very helpful to have them along” says Gotfredsen.
Rodney Heubner, Contract Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa, BT Global Services, was one of the representatives on this tour. “The success of the tour for me was on the faces of the entrepreneurs when they had a meeting and secured a deal or contract. I was impressed with all of them as they did their homework before we went over.”
A tour such as this one, he says, opens their minds to the opportunities and possibilities out there. “The focus on this tour was the ICT sector and we want to grow that sector by investing in it through initiatives such as the MEDO ITP and in doing so bring these entrepreneurial businesses into our supply chain.”
Henk Koekemoer owns CashCow in Cape Town, an accountancy board game and kit. On the tour he received an endorsement from the International Association of Bookkeepers for CashCow. An added bonus is that the Serious Gaming Institute will be developing CashCow into a digital format. “This means CashCow would become available worldwide – on smart phones and tablets.”
Koekemoer also had discussions with Price Waterhouse Coopers in the UK on how they could use his product to assist in the basic learning of accounting throughout the world.
Itumeleng Legodi of Systemwox ICT in Centurion, provides ICT business solutions to companies so they can operate more efficiently, such as bulk smsing and crowd sourcing. “We have secured an agreement in principle with Capium to distribute their products in Southern Africa. I am overwhelmed and pleased with the deal. I think it would have taken me much longer to yield such a result if I had to do it on my own, instead of through the MEDO ITP.”
Josias Motsoeneng, Chief Executive Director of Marketing and Projects and Hendrik van Rooyen, Chief Executive Director, Risk Management of AC Electromech in Middleburg, are very pleased with the tour. “We secured an exclusive license agreement to sell and distribute Hansford products throughout Africa.”
AC Electromech provides predictive and preventive machine health monitoring technology to the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Hansford products together with the software AC Electromech is developing will mean machine health monitoring in real time. “Maintenance costs in the mining industry are very high. Technicians have to travel to the mines to scan the machines and then come back to the office with the data. With new software we can offer online live data, meaning analysis of machines can be done in a couple of hours. The client can also access the data 24/7.”
They are also in talks with BT, which will lead to their entry into the oil mining and gas sector. This should be finalised at the end of this month. Both say they are very happy with how the tour went and their progress. “A tour such as this also allows us to see what other entrepreneurs in other countries are doing, and how their governments and institutes are assisting them. MEDO and BT have given us the opportunity to engage in conversation at the top, instead of us fighting for the bottom to be heard to get to the top,” says Motsoeneng.
“I think the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) is moving in the right direction in South Africa. What we need is funding and research. A university should start a course for entrepreneurs to expose them to the institution and give them access to research,” says van Rooyen.
Kennedy Kitheka, of Fundi in Cape Town, provides academic and training institutions with a delivery mechanism for their digital material. He says the tour gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to see what they are capable of and to realise they are not that far behind in terms of technology. “Even if you do not seal a deal, you learn a great deal.”
His company was successful in securing the rights to digitise Limra’s content through its delivery mechanism. The pilot will run in the next month or two.
The next MEDO tour will be in September this year. Interested entrepreneurs can find out more information closer to the time on www.medo.co.za.