http://dhlguide.co.uk/export-south-africa/ With similar business cultures, a shared business language and a strong demand for the ‘Made in Britain’ label, South Africa is ready to welcome more British products into the country. Here DHL Express UK CEO, Phil Couchman, and DHL Express South Africa MD, Hennie Heymans, discuss new business opportunities for Britain’s SMEs in South Africa.
I’m Phil Couchman, Chief Executive of DHL Express UK and Ireland.
I’ve been here for 2.5 years, and prior to that my job was sub-Saharan Africa as Regional Director, based in South Africa.
So it’s great for me to have Hennie Heymans here today, who’s now the Managing Director of South Africa. So we’ve got a lot to catch up on.
It’s fantastic to be here Phil,
Hennie, we were going to have a chat this afternoon about the trade lane between South Africa and the UK. Particularly, I’m interested in exports, SMEs, between here and South Africa.
South Africa is not our biggest trade lane, nor is it our fastest-growing trade lane in that field.
How do you think we can stimulate it?
The timing is actually perfect, Phil. If we look at how the demographics are changing within sub-Sahara, we see an enormous growth in the middle class, the up and coming middle class. Which means that from a consumer spend perspective they are now ready to spend their money somewhere.
I think that opens up an entire new market for SMEs in the UK and in particular in Africa.
Are there any barriers you can think of in South Africa?
I think that South Africa again is in a wonderful position because the business language in South Africa is English, so therefore specifically to trade out of the UK there should be no language barriers there.
From a cultural perspective again pretty easy to do business. The two countries have been doing business with one another for incredibly long periods of time so have a great sensitivity to one another’s cultures, and the way of dealing with business. So I think the continent is absolutely ready to get some more products in from the UK.
You know, the label ‘Made in UK’ means a lot back home. It’s set a benchmark of style and quality and good product all around.
Market niches for British products
You know we spoke about the UK brand and its popularity down south. Fashion has just quadrupled in terms of its importance.
And I cannot tell you about the amount of wedding dresses I’m actually importing from the UK for our base of customers in South Africa.
It’s so wonderful to see that trade lane and growth taking place through the explosion in the e-commerce arena.
As you know from your own experience, we are a sports-mad nation in South Africa
Love our rugby and our barbecues on a Saturday, so from a sporting perspective you know the timing is absolutely perfect. And also the mindset of the consumers it absolutely open and ripe right now for new ideas and new competitors and a wider range I’d say.
Cycling happens to be the fastest-growing sport in South Africa at the moment.
And I think what’s important to understand about that is in particular the profile of those entering the sport, and it’s high-profile, so your ISM 6 and above individuals that are joiing us. Typically board members, senior executives and high-export members that are joining it. So in terms of affordability and in terms of the kinds of market that you’ll attract, I would say it’s pretty opportunistic from companies in the UK to hone in one that market and make sure they make themselves known out there, and they spread the word and they spread the website so to speak, and get to consumers to understand that they are a click away.
And just to reinforce what you said, it’s encouraging to mention the attractiveness of the British brand in Africa. And we see the UK has got an awful lot to offer. It’s got a level of sophistication in retail sales and the working of websites.
It’s got a favourable currency most of the time, and it’s got a lot of support from the government.
Moving forward, I’m really hoping that over these next few years we can keep that growth going exponentially and I really can’t see why not.
Absolutely Phil, and I think through your initiative with the UKTI we can maybe piggyback on that in South Africa, get in contact with the Trade Commissioner in South Africa.
And I think collectively, both from an importing and exporting perspective, I think there is an enormous opportunity for all of us to explore.
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