Taking Business Across Borders: Highlights From The Annual Mpumalanga Business and Investors’ Seminar

In light of South Africa’s rising unemployment rate and perceived economic decline following the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing that has become apparent is the urgent need to alleviate poverty and prevent the working class citizens from falling below the poverty line. Some pioneers have decided to go back to the drawing board and reintroduce the concept of education, specifically through equipping members of the community with practical knowledge designed to usher in the a new wave of innovative entrepreneurs. On the 21st of November 2020, Mpumalanga was presented with an information session of this nature in the form of Mr Ronnie Masilela’s 3rd Annual Mpumalanga Business and Investors’ Seminar. The session aimed to place a focus on finding opportunities outside South African boundaries under the ‘business beyond borders’ theme. Not only did this event put forward a panel of experienced speakers, it gave attendees an opportunity to extract personalised information directly from the relevant sources.

Market research and business planning prior to opening the doors to one’s enterprise can be the foundation that holds it up for years to come. This process cannot be overlooked especially when it is time to go interprovincial, or even global. The Seminar ensures to inform about crawling before attempting to sprint prior to exploring going global from a small scale to a mass service/product delivery enterprise. All of which was rooted in an introductory approach to business practice suited for beginners and experienced businesspeople.

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An important issue highlighted as facing small business owners or preventing individuals from beginning, or even growing their practice of business, is a lack of resources. Author and entrepreneur Ms. Bathabile Moreki stated the significance of “running a business not a struggle”. The pathway to which is access to funding and adequate resources. ‘Running a struggle’ essentially refers to the practice of running one’s organisation in a ‘hand-to-mouth’ fashion due to a lack of sufficient equipment, resources or supplies, resulting in poor service delivery and low profits or returns on investments. The idea being that a good service/product partnered with appropriate resources to present to a customer will dramatically increase profitability and the company’s sustainability. In essence, the key to having competitive prices and acquiring clients will be dictated by adequate capital. Ms. Moreki went on to talk about the ‘Township Economy Transformation’ programme which she runs aimed at helping small businesses gain access to funding as well as access to local and international market. With her experience in franchising, she and her organisation are dedicated to sharing opportunities with dedicated business owners.

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The session then granted the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) a platform to address the aforementioned problem as well, highlighting how organisations like theirs are available to award grants to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Furthermore, information about exports and organisations related to this practice were discussed, allowing a full picture of what kind of education would need to be acquired before diving into the exporting industry. SEDA noted that South Africa fails to nurture a sizeable number of exporters in the country, which has led to a gap in the market, further showing the marked need for more sessions like these to attract more active participation in the market.

The main contributors of the day’s event, Mr. Greg Blose and Dr. Protus Kum, brought their years of experience in conducting business within and beyond our borders. The essence of the two part discussion laid in putting in the hours to ensure that one understands what is required of them when going into business with a country that may have different rules from one’s own. Compliance refers to the act of following regulations that have been set forward for engaging in any kind of trade with various individuals and entities under different circumstances. A failure to comply will likely jeopardize the legitimacy of one’s business and possibly give a negative impression of the country (in international trade). The gentlemen called attention to the World Trade Organisation which deals with the global rules of trade between nations and also to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which is a community of countries that intends to achieve economic development, alleviate poverty and enhance the standard of life of the people of Southern Africa among other objectives. The functions of these organisations among others were discussed in connection to how they aid businesses and individuals in conducting successful trades between countries. This just being a sample of the value that the seminar had to provide.

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Overall, the 3rd Annual Mpumalanga Business and Investors’ Seminar delivered on its promise to bring valuable connections for individual networks, all while tailoring education relevant to the people of the city. A feasible programme was presented, led by a representative group of panellists who all added value to the event and stayed true to the outlined objectives. A nod can be awarded to the host for inclusion in terms of gender, where women in positions of economic power were given a platform to put their voices forward and draw in the next generation of female innovators. Representation matters, and this seminar addressed that beautifully.

In conclusion, finances are an important part of running a successful business. Therefore, reaching out to organisations such as SEDA and the NYDA (both present at the seminar) can benefit the establishment or growth of one’s business. The importance of familiarising oneself with the laws and rules associated with trading both locally and internationally was elaborated. Needless to say, a plethora of functional information was given to attendees. The call to action was issued and it now rests on these individuals whether or not they answer the call.

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