East London – With the aim of driving inclusive economic growth, the Eastern Cape Province will host its 6th Eastern Cape Export Symposium on August 21 and 22 at the East London ICC.

The initiative, which includes a two-day conference, exhibition and match-making meetings, is expected to draw the participation of numerous global trade representatives and the country’s export trade fraternity.

ECDC CEO Ayanda Wakaba said the symposium was aimed at developing new markets and partnerships for trade, citing “untapped potential for exports from the Eastern Cape”.

The Eastern Cape region boasts significant contributions to various industries, such as being a global leader in Mohair production, a major hub for automotive production, and a prominent player in the global citrus market.

“Despite these accomplishments, we believe that there is untapped potential for agricultural production and other exports in the Eastern Cape, along with promising opportunities for importing goods from across Africa,” Wakaba said.

Under the theme “Think Eastern Cape: Think Opportunities”, the Eastern Cape Export Symposium and Exhibition has the overarching objective of promoting trade and supply networks, facilitating access to markets, resources, and the latest research.

“The symposium offers valuable resources, in-depth analysis, and networking opportunities that hold significance for the entire South African export community and serves as a magnet for participants from various parts of South Africa as well as international buyers and policymakers, but small and medium-sized enterprises, play a key role.’’

“In order to elevate the volumes of exports from the region and take advantage of the untapped opportunities, particularly in agriculture, small and medium businesses have a vital role to play and this is also essential for inclusive and sustainable economic growth,’’ Wakaba said.

More than 70 distinguished speakers, including leading trade specialists from various sectors such as automotive, agriculture, renewable energy/environmental products, and natural fibers (including hemp and cannabis), along with regional and national trade policy-makers, will unpack opportunities in these sectors over two days, largely in panel discussion format.

The second major focus of the conference, drawing over 200 delegates, is cutting-edge, in-depth analysis of developments and opportunity presented by South Africa’s international trade agreements, including an enlarged BRICS, AGOA, EU and trading under AfCFTA.

Sixty organisations, both exporters and export development agencies will physically exhibit at the symposium. Exhibitors will represent several of the Eastern Cape’s priority sectors,  including but not limited to automotive, agro-processing and products and services related to the circular economy and renewables.

Speaking at the 5th annual Eastern Cape Export Symposium, in East London (17+18 August, 2023) AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene said the Eastern Cape province’s geographic location on the southern African coastline predisposed it to “significant opportunity.”

Mene, who was raised in the Kwanobuhle township in Kariega (formerly Uitenhage) in the region – also home to Volkswagen Africa, stressed the importance of the Eastern Cape developing a strategy around its place in the game-changing market presented by 1.3bn people and a GDP of 3.4 trillion dollars – which by the turn of the century is estimated at 16.2 trillion dollars.

“Eastern Cape, renowned for its automotive industry, involving the production of motor vehicles and parts, and a strong and varied agricultural sector, can significantly contribute to the development of the AfCFTA regional value chains in these two priority sectors,’’ Mene said.

Delegates also heard statistics, from over 50 speakers, over two days, indicating that Eastern Cape, the country’s biggest citrus producer, exports more than half of light vehicles produced in South Africa, has the largest percentage of the country’s livestock, produces more than 15 million kilograms of wool a year and supplies more than half of the world’s mohair.

Aspen Pharma Group Executive Stavros Nicolaou provided analysis around South Africa’s role and opportunity in BRICs with the pharmaceutical market in China presenting the company, which has plants in both Gqeberha and East London, with “significant opportunity.”

“BRICs presents opportunities that we need to latch onto and while we are facing economic headwinds as a country, the capabilities of our businesses give me a lot of confidence around success in the BRIC markets.’’

The Eastern Cape Export Symposium and Exhibition is scheduled to take place on 21-22 August 2024 at the ELICC in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The event is organized by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, the Trade & Investment Promotion Agency of the Eastern Cape government.