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Panel discussion with participants of the TFSA export trade skills programme 

During the 2022 Eastern Cape Export Trade Symposium, Trade Forward Southern Africa (TFSA), in conjunction with Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), hosted a Women In Trade panel discussion, The Journey to Export Readiness. The event was a result of the strategic partnership in which TFSA supports the ECDC to build a sustainable strategy to facilitate continued support for women in export trade through practical solutions such as training programmes. The commitment of the ECDC in growing the economy of the Eastern Cape province is evident through its engagement with investors, facilitating trade missions, exhibitions, workshops for networking opportunities, trade/export knowledge and access to prospective clients in various targeted countries.

TFSA is a UK Government programme that supports growth in trade through the provision of technical assistance, capacity building, and improved access to essential market information to alleviate poverty and promote inclusive economic growth, particularly for women, across the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique.     

One of TFSA’s key offerings is the TFSA School of Export which provides free access to tailored, interactive training resources on international trade. The multimedia training provides insights into the current global trading environment, the ability to assess the export readiness of your company and core knowledge about export, necessary for success in exporting.   

The Women in Trade panel of speakers featured three businesswomen from the Eastern Cape, who recently benefitted from the Export Readiness training programme facilitated by ECDC and powered by TFSA. The panellists included: Gando Tenge, a representative of Wild Coast Abalone Ranching Cooperative with a community membership of 800 rural abalone farmers; Mary Phillips, founder of The Waste Takers, a recycling company operating since 2012; and Sandra Handson, co-founder of Silver Emerald Trading 7, a cosmetics company producing locally made cosmetics aimed at domestic and regional salon and hotel markets. The discussion was facilitated by Veyrl Adell, TFSA Gender Lead.

When asked how they benefitted from the Export Readiness training, Gando pointed out that their instructor taught them that “one of the most important factors of success in business is to respect the cultural dynamics of communities you are doing business with, so that you can build trust.”   

Mary indicated that she learned about “the importance of compliance with international laws when a business is exporting its products, because no matter how good your product is, if you don’t comply, you will be out of the game. The three week programme gave good exposure and I managed to establish new networking opportunities with my fellow students.”

Sandra, said that “the networking in this particular cohort has been phenomenal. We see how collaboration is key, which means we need to pool our skills so that we can all be empowered to access a broader market which is what we are trying to achieve.”

When giving words of advice to upcoming entrepreneurs, Gando emphasised that, “if you have a desire to start a business, follow the desire, identify your market, and do your research to ensure that there is a need for your product.”

When asked if there were moments she felt like giving up, Sandra, said there were numerous, but what drove the company was “the passion to stay in business as well as the difference we continue to make in the community. Also, we appreciate each person’s skills set because we believe that we can learn from each other.” 

The training is designed to achieve the following upon completion: 

  • Identify and recruit majority women-owned businesses that meet the programme criteria 
  • Businesses trained, coached and mentored to develop export marketing strategy
  • Businesses equipped with export strategies that are suitably ready for implementation 

In addition to the specialised export trade training delivered through partner business support organisations such as ECDC, TFSA holds regular webinars to provide entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and knowledge on how to use the tools built within the Trade and Information Hub in identifying the best global markets for their products. These tools also enable the user to comply with the rules and regulations of the international markets including, custom duties, taxes, etc.

Previous webinars involved the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva, as one of the presenters  and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) in South Africa. These two renowned organisations have co-created the South African based chapter, SheTradesZA, which is a platform run by the ITC. The webinar focused on the export trade opportunities and support specifically available for women-led businesses.

To access previous riveting TFSA webinars, please click here.