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DHL to empower local SMEs to go global

There is a definite opportunity for SMEs to fill the gaps in Africa that are not being serviced by large global companies. There is a definite opportunity for SMEs to fill the gaps in Africa that are not being serviced by large global companies.

DHL is on a mission to empower SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) to go global, with businesses across the globe clambering over themselves to get a piece of the African pie.


This year, DHL is launching a multi-pronged SME programme, which is aimed at specifically giving SMEs the tools, motivation and knowledge to be able to take their product global. The programme will includes a dedicated and proprietary training programme called CIS SME (Certified International Specialist SME) and will be available online, as a hardcopy in book-form, as well as be used in training rooms – all free of charge.

In an interview with Cape Business News, Charles Brewer, Managing Director of DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, tells CBN that local SMEs are clearly the growth engine for Africa and the critical driver for sustainable economic growth. SMEs can – and should – be targeting both intra Africa and global opportunities.

Brewer explains that the more SMEs become connected and see the rest of the world as an opportunity, the better it is for the South African economy, as well as for the SME. He says that there is a definite opportunity for SMEs to fill the gaps in Africa that are not being serviced by large global companies. A growing SME base will create new jobs, which is an absolute must for this ever-growing continent.

“We have hundreds of thousands of SMEs in Africa who have an enormous opportunity to take their amazing products and go global,” Brewer says.

But what prevents SMEs from going global? According to Brewer, there are three main reasons:

  1. Motivation: The impetus to go global; to take the risk and expand.

  2. Finance: Following their acronym, SMEs are exactly that – Small and Medium sized Enterprises, which means that their budget and income is also small to medium and possibly not sufficient for the costs of doing business and expanding globally.

  3. Knowledge: SMEs know they want to go global, and they can. But how? They ask questions like:
  • How do I find customers?
  • How do I advertise my product and how do I sell it?
  • What price do I sell it for?
  • Will I get paid?
  • How do I do the paperwork?
  • Will my product be accepted in that country?
  • What are the environmental and government requirements?

With the help of DHL’s CIS SME programme, companies can overcome these perceived obstacles. DHL has been able to work within Africa’s poor infrastructure for many years and still offer excellent service. It also sees that by empowering all businesses, including SMEs, DHL can grow its own customer base, as it is active across Africa and therefore has the infrastructural base to help SMEs expand into the continent.

DHL is present in every market in Africa, with the most recent two additions being the island of St. Helena and South Sudan. When asked what the most shipped commodities from Cape Town are, Brewer reported the usual finance and banking documents as well as spare parts. But in terms of duty items, research showed clothing and fashion textiles to be the most common shipments from Cape Town.

“So there must be a big developing fashion segment in Cape Town exporting to the rest of the world, which means a lot of upcoming designers. That is fantastic!” Brewer adds, “However, going global is not limited to a particular type of SME, it doesn’t matter what you do or what your product is. It’s about knowing which markets you’re going to go into because some countries are easier to export to than others. Also, Cape Town is a World Design Capital. We should be exploiting that.”

Brewer’s message to the Cape business community:

“Just do it! It’s not as complicated or as difficult as you may think. And if you’re a Cape Town-based SME, come and talk to us and we will show you how to take your business global. From there, the sky’s the limit,” Brewer concludes.


By: Kristy Jooste

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