SA, Ireland bolster trade relations

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 09 Nov 2011

South Africa and Ireland have boosted their trade relationship following a visit from the Irish Trade Mission to SA and the opening of the Johannesburg office of Enterprise Ireland, an Irish trade and technology agency.

Jan O'Sullivan, Ireland's minister of trade and development, who is in SA for the opening of the Enterprise Ireland office and to meet with potential trading partners, yesterday said Ireland considers SA to be the gateway into the southern African markets, as well as into Africa as a whole.

She revealed that Enterprise Ireland would open a permanent office in Johannesburg in January next year. According to the minister, Ireland also plans to bring high-quality technological products to the South African market, and will also focus on premium education through promoting research and development.

“The mission targeted opportunities across the business spectrum in SA... particularly in sectors where Irish companies are already active. These include software, telecommunications, financial software and services, construction and engineering, education, e-learning and training, beverages, plastics, waste water management, traffic management products, publishing, and pharmaceutical products.”

Done deals

The visit also saw the unveiling of some key IT business deals between South African and Irish companies. O'Sullivan officially recognised a new South African channel partnership for global e-learning provider, MindLeaders ThirdForce.

This year, MindLeaders ThirdForce established a new office in Johannesburg, and employed local e-learning specialist Hazel Mathoora to spearhead the growing channel partner programme.

Azotel, a Cork-based technology company, also revealed the expansion of its presence in SA with the awarding of a new contract to the Irish firm by Wirulink through Multisource, its local distributor. Azotel specialises in the development and delivery of software and services through its SIMPLer platform, to more than 100 broadband operators globally.

The value of contracts through Multisource is in the region of EUR3 million over the next two years. Azotel will be contracted for subscriber management on the Wirulink Wireless Broadband Network, which will now deploy the SIMPLer platform to operate and manage its entire customer base.

Bannow Exports, based in Gorey, Co Wexford, also announced that it would transfer its technology to SA with the establishment of Bannow Africa to provide package sewage treatment plants and environmental protection equipment.

During the trade mission, Terminal Four, a Dublin-based Web content management company, also revealed that it has won its first African client in Rhodes University. Terminal Four aims to use its expertise in the creation of the university's new Web site, which is at the heart of all its online communication activities.

Irish commitment

O'Sullivan also pointed out that SA has one of the most sophisticated business environments in Africa, and is the regional powerhouse in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 30% of total GDP.

“The opening of the new office, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, is a clear demonstration of Ireland's commitment to fostering trade links in the region,” she said.

She described SA as an important trading partner for Ireland, and attributed a significant role by SA in aiding the Irish economic recovery. “Last year, Irish exports to SA amounted to well over EUR500 million, up 24% [on the] previous year, while South African exports to Ireland were more than EUR100 million, and grew by 7% in the same period.”

During a Q&A with the press, O'Sullivan pointed out that although the figures seem to be in favour of her country, the trade relationship is currently a “win-win” for both countries.

“Over 150 Enterprise Ireland clients are now doing business here. A substantial number have built up local presence, with 30 Irish companies with local subsidiaries employing over 13 000 people in SA.”

Concluding her speech, O'Sullivan pointed out that, as the economic gateway to Africa, SA has an important role to play in Ireland's trade strategy in the region, while Ireland is similarly well placed to serve as the economic gateway to Europe for South African exporters.