Tokyo Trade Mission 2015

NKatkeoOkwera_and_Cyril_Ramaphosa

Nkateko Okwera meets with Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa

In August, I had the pleasure of accompanying Dr. Olive Shisana to Tokyo, Japan on a trade mission led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. We were honored to be invited as Evidence Based Solutions to participate in this trade mission. On a personal note, I was quite taken aback with the experience. Far too often, when discussing African leaders, we have negative associations. What I saw on this trip was a stark contrast from that stereotype. It was inspiring to see Deputy President Ramaphosa put so much effort towards helping South Africa’s economy.

Instead I was impressed with how hard the deputy president worked to make the trip a success. I was impressed with the combination of local South African companies that were invited. There was a strong mix of newer firms, younger entrepreneurs, well-established business people and large corporations. Ample opportunities were provided for one-on-one discussions with local Japanese companies. We were even given comprehensive logistics support to make sure that our in-person meetings went well.

OliveShisana_and_CyrilRamaphosa

Dr. Olive Shisana meets with Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa

In addition to meeting with Japanese companies   and finding opportunities to collaborate, we also forged new relationships with local South African companies. I’ve come to realize that these trade missions are far more than just photo opportunities and chances to trade business cards. They improve local economies by providing local companies with an unprecedented opportunity to forge relationships in markets they would ordinarily not have access to.

Olive-Image1

Dr. Olive Shisana and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nomaindia Mfeketo

In looking at stereotypes, when we think of trade in Africa, we immediately think of raw material export. Beneficiation and technical partnerships were recurring themes for this 4 day trade meeting. We discussed knowledge transfers, technical expertise, and equal partnerships. This trade mission was about more than just selling raw materials. It was about truly looking for business partners.

I’m very pleased that we had the opportunity to participate. This is not only because of potential business, but because this was clearly a step in the right direction for productively expanding the economy in South Africa. I was proud to have Evidence Based Solutions as part of this initiative.