The Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAGCC) will host a job fair in September where German companies will present themselves as potential employers for young South Africans and vice versa.
“We want to create an opportunity for companies and graduates to learn more about each other. “This will be an event where students have the opportunity to see what companies expect from them and for the companies to showcase their activities,” says SAGCC CEO Matthias Boddenberg.
He explains that for many years German companies in South Africa focused only on the South African market, but this has changed in the past years since the economic upswing in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) began.
“In recent years, the focus broadened to include countries like Mozambique and Angola. The key to a successful expansion of activities in the region is the participation in national trade fairs in SADC countries, as is the regular market research in these countries by visiting partners and associates,” Boddenberg states.
He points out that the biggest potential for growth in South Africa and the SADC is the development of the regional infrastructure.
“Transport and logistics are essential for local and regional trade. The upswing in regional trade between the member countries of SADC necessitates further investments in infrastructure, roads, railways and harbours,” he says.
Part of the infrastructure development pertains to investment in power generation, transmission and distribution, adds Boddenberg.
“South Africa has abundant potential for the use of renewable-energy sources, from solar thermal installations to the generation of power from wind turbines. “The past tender processes have shown that the generation of energy from renewable sources is, to a large extent, competitive when compared with traditional methods of generating energy,” he notes.
He states that in 2012 the chamber celebrated its sixtieth anniversary and today represents around 630 member companies.
“The member companies represent the German core industries, namely the automotive and automotive supplier industries, the electrotechnical, chemicals, machinery and plant manufacturing industries.
He adds that since 1988, when the chamber introduced a training initiative in the commercial field for young South Africans to be trained as commercial clerks, training initiatives have grown from 24 trainees to around 850 trainees.
“In 1993, we introduced technical training on behalf of our small and medium-sized member companies. One of the most important aspects lies in the combination of the practical technical training in companies, with dedicated theoretical training for one day a week.
“Since 2009, these training initiatives have been conducted by our subsidiary, Southern African–German Training Ser-vices,” he says.
He notes that the chamber plays an important role in strengthening relations between South Africa and Germany through various initiatives and projects that highlight cooperation between the two countries.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) funds South African exhibitors on national pavilions at German trade fairs which, this year, will include interior design and luxury living trade fair Ambiente and automation technology trade fair CeBit.
“The German Ministry coordinates German pavilions at carefully selected trade fairs in South Africa to promote trade relations between German and South African companies,” he says.
The German pavilions include a large official information stand, which is staffed by consultants contracted by the German government, as well as stands of participating German companies from which German expertise and products are demonstrated in an interactive setting.
“German pavilions not only focus on displaying German services and products but also aim to find suitable South African partners,” he says, adding that about 250 German pavilions are at international events a year.
“So far, this year, German pavilions have been present at numerous South African trade fairs, including Automechanika, Africa Health, Africa Energy Indaba, Power and Electricity World Africa,while a pavilion will also be present at bauma Africa,” states Boddenberg.
The trade fair concept was first recorded in Germany over 700 years ago and, today, the country hosts some of the largest exhibitions in the world, representing an array of topics, exceeding 400 different sectors.
“Over 3 000 South Africans visit German trade fairs yearly and display over 4 000 m2 of South African corporate exhibits to international trade buyers and global supplier networks, while German business-to-business trade fairs routinely attract South African national DTI pavilions,” he says.
Boddenberg points out that the German-South African year of science 2012/13 celebrated scientific cooperation between institutions and residents in both countries.
“The focus was on a variety of topics, including astronomy and the challenges of urbanisation and mega cities.”
He adds that a technology exhibition, which will take place later this year, will present the South African–German technology partnership for Africa.
“German technology products made in South Africa can be marketed in Southern Africa and used for mutual benefit. “It is all about sustainable and fair partnerships which are in the mutual interest of all concerned,” he notes, adding that the SAGCC has been active in South Africa since 1952.
“German companies experience the same challenges in South Africa as their local counterparts,” Boddenberg points out.
He notes that one of the most pressing challenges is the shortage of skilled people in the country.
“More needs to be done to alleviate this obstacle to eco- nomic growth and investment. “The traditional apprentice- ships need to be revived since they are the backbone of a successful economy,” says Boddenberg.
He adds that another challenge is the extreme bureaucracy in South Africa, which hinders local economic development.
“While this might not be a major obstacle for larger corporates, it is a major challenge for small and medium-sized companies, which are the majority of our members,” he notes.
While the chamber and its members support broad-based black economic empowerment, there are a number of concerns that he feels need to be addressed by government.
“These include the proposed codes of good practice, which would lead, if implemented, to an ever-increasing burden on small and medium-sized companies. This is also an obstacle for new international and local investment. “The implementation of these codes will also not help the international competitiveness of South African companies,” he concludes