14 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.
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.”