Posted: June 9, 2022
Two Limpopo entrepreneurs are in the process of getting their companies and products ready to tap into the African market where they have identified trade opportunities they can successfully explore. Ms Cate Olifant (44), who owns Akani Paints which is based in Tzaneen, and Mr Thabang Monyepao (26), owner of the Polokwane-based Delight Softies, a tissue-manufacturing enterprise, received attractive trade leads at the Intra-African Trade Fair which took place in Durban in November last year.
Their participation was made possible by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic). This was part of the department’s efforts to provide South African companies with the opportunity to showcase their products in international markets in order to assist them to secure foreign markets to export their products to or do business in.
The goal of the support was to enable the SA businesspeople to interact with their counterparts from other African countries so that they can do business together and contribute in increasing intra-African trade and investment in line with the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA). The agreement provides a market of 1.3 billion people for the companies across Africa to produce goods and services for.
Both entrepreneurs were exhibiting their products and market their companies in an international trade fair for the first time. To their pleasant surprise, their products attracted quite an impressive attention from businesspeople from various African countries who showed interest in doing business with the two Limpopo companies.
However, no sooner had the two returned from Durban that the reality of their limitation and the demands of operating in the export market struck home. Their products and factories where they are manufacturing their products have to match particular set standards in line with exporting and international trading requirements.
In addition, they will be compelled to upgrade their factories which will enable them to increase the volumes and quality of the products that they are manufacturing in order to be able to service the export orders. The benefit that will come out of this exercise is that the two Limpopo companies will be able increase the number of people they are employing.
“I learnt a lot from participating in that exhibition. We are really grateful to the dtic for providing us with the opportunity to interact with businesspeople from the rest of the continent and beyond. It was a really inspiring experience. As a small enterprise based in the rural part of our country, we grabbed the opportunity with both hands and put our best foot forward at the exhibition. The interest shown by businesspeople from other countries on our products was beyond our imagination,” says Olifant.
She adds that at the IATF she obtained promising trade leads from companies from Swaziland, Egypt and Cameroon.
“At the IATF I was greatly inspired by the keen interest shown by African companies in doing business amongst each other across the continent. We decided that we should focus on the Southern African market and gradually make our way up. We realised that opportunities are there, hence we have started with the process of upgrading our factory and products so that we can be able to fully take advantage of those opportunities. In this regards, we are working with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda),” says Olifant.
Olifant is currently providing employment to eight people. She is also providing internship to 10 chemical engineering graduates whom she would like to absorb as her company expands into the African market. Hardwares and building contractors that are currently her major clients.
Monyepao says exhibiting at the IATF and interacting with businesspeople from across the continent made him realise that there is a massive market in the rest of Africa that he can sell his products in.
“We successfully negotiated a big contract with one of the companies from the Democratic Republic of Congo that participated in the exhibition. And there were others who also showed genuine interest in our products. In order to take advantage of these lucrative opportunities, we are in the process of looking for funding to expand our operations, We are also working with the SABS to help us upgrade our facilities and products to the required standards,” says Monyepao.
His current staff complement comprises of eight fulltime and five part-time employees.
The vast African market beckons for Limpopo entrepreneurs, Ms Cate Olifant of Akani Paints and Mr Thabang Monyepao, owner of Delight Softies.
Bongani Lukhele – Director: Media Relations
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Issued by: The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)