International Trade Programme: September 2014

Unleashing young and ambitious entrepreneurs onto the world. That is exactly what the International Trade Programme is in a nutshell.

10571936_795600543794580_4600068232385525265_oIn the beginning of this year, a group of entrepreneurs were accepted into the elite ITP programme that consisted of a series of in-depth workshops hosted by notable lecturers that are considered experts in their respective fields. Those that finished the workshop series were granted the opportunity to show what they’re made of with the Big Pitch that happened earlier this year in Cape Town. Various business men and women acted as judges to choose to best of the best who will be allowed to complete the final leg of the programme in the United Kingdom in September. This was the first year in which all the participating entrepreneurs were put through to London.

Ian Scott, managing partner from one of South Africa’s ‘Big 5’ accounting firms, Grant Thornton acted as judge on the event. He responded, “I had to choose the best to go over to the UK, but I ended up giving everyone virtually a perfect scrore! After the event when we tallied scores I was so relieved that that was the case with eveyone. The quality of ideas and pitches was so high, everyone got sent to the UK!”

In the UK, travelling between London and Coventry, the team will be hosted respectively by the South African High Commission in London and Coventry University. The entrepreneurs are also expected to arrange meetings with prospective UK investors that will not only further their businesses, but foreign exchange as well.

“71% of all new jobs in South Africa come from small or micro businesses, so in the end it’s all about growing the economy. I bleed the rainbow colours of our flag, and I feel as a country we are all in it together, and only together can we wake up the economy and create business opportunities,”CEO and co- founder of MEDO, Judi Sandrock explains. “As an accounting firm we started up small, but it is integral for us, no matter how much we grow not to lose touch with small developing start-ups,” Ian explains.

After the UK trip entrepreneurs are still granted full support from MEDO, with the hope that the trip will broaden their connections and potentials. Bjarke Gotfredsen, MEDO operations manager, co-founder and CEO explains more about the ITP programme, “young entrepreneurs are more wiling risk than big established companies. When they go overseas they are thus also more likely to get international contracts. With small businesses the entrepreneurs deal directly with decision makers, owner to owner, and they make things happen.”

As South Africa is part of the BRICS union with Brazil, Russia, India and China, we are currently part of the new power-economies that control 43% of the world’s population. “South Africa is often seen as bridge or entry point to the rest of Africa, which is why we are part of BRICS and why we need to open ourselves up to other economies like the UK,”Bjarke explains. “In the end it’s all about growing the economy. We need to create a level playing field for the value of money, and against the British Pound we can only do that through international trade.”

On the point of black business development Bjarke furthers that it’s purely an economic move, “20 years on we are still in an economic apartheid. 80% of the economy is still white-owned, I don’t believe business should be taken away from anyone, but we need to develop black businesses to be able to share a piece of that pie. Where the misunderstanding comes in, is no-one will lose anything, the pie, the economy will then just keep growing.”

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