Networking events and exhibitions are integral to fostering partnerships between Italian and South African companies, says Italian-South African Chamber of Trade and Industries secretary general Mariagrazia Biancospino.
She highlights that introducing companies is an important step in doing business in the South African corporate environment and explains that the chamber acts as a business matchmaker, linking Italian suppliers with South African importers and distributors and assisting in establishing joint ventures between companies from the two countries. These interactions are often initiated through industry-specific exhibitions and events, which the chamber takes an active role in planning and promoting.
The chamber also focuses strongly on communications, providing insights on developments in Italy and South Africa through newsletters and on its website to help foreign companies understand and navigate the local business environment.
“The business cultures of the two countries are very well aligned and this means that relationships are easily formed and maintained. On a more practical level, business between South Africa and Italy is further facilitated by the two countries being in the same time zone,” notes Biancospino.
She points out that South Africa remains largely unknown to many Italians, who are often pleasantly surprised when they visit the country and find it to be much more developed than they had expected in terms of infrastructure and the business environment. Biancospino highlights that the banking and financial services sector in South Africa is particularly strong, providing a sound platform for embarking on new business opportunities.
“Meanwhile, Italian companies are generally perceived to be very professional, providing goods and services of a high quality and highly advanced technology, often in the form of high-performance machinery and equipment. In this way, the two countries complement each other, providing ample scope for joint ventures.”
She highlights that Italian companies are well established in many South African sectors, including industrial machinery and tooling, automotive and rail, building and construction, design, fashion and cosmetics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, mining and downstream processing, agriculture and forestry, packaging, appliances and logistics.
Biancospino further notes that Italian companies are, moreover, increasingly becoming industry leaders in the provision of environment-conscious solutions, with applications in areas such as wastewater treatment and renewable energy.
“The growing difficulty in gaining a business visa and a lack of certainty regarding the focus areas for future government expenditure make it imperative for Italian companies trying to enter South Africa to have a local partner and we are proud to assist in this regard,” she says.
One of the most important events on the chamber’s calendar is the South Africa-Italy Summit hosted by The European House: Ambrosetti, which will be held for the fourth consecutive year on October 24 to 25 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, in Johannesburg. Biancospino highlights that this event will provide an environment for high-level delegates from the private sector to discuss the needs of Italians in South Africa and liaise with government officials to chart a way forward, capitalising on the benefits that Italian companies can offer the country.
The Italian-South African Chamber of Trade and Industries will also host the eighteenth edition of the Business Excellence Awards – sponsored by local financial institution Nedbank – on November 30 at The Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg. The event will celebrate the Italian-South African business community’s contribution to the economic growth of the country, recognising laudable businesspeople for their business and commercial achievements over the past year.
“This is the most important event for the Italian community in Africa and what preceeds it is a thorough process of investigation into the development and contributions being made by key Italian businesses in the local markets. We look forward to welcoming our guests and honouring those who have achieved excellence in difficult economic times,” concludes Biancospino.