Proposed Western Cape-UK partnerships in tech and rail transport

Discussions are underway around potential partnerships between the Western Cape and the United Kingdom, following a trade mission to the UK this month.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, led the delegation, which included 10 entrepreneurs and Wesgro.

The delegation departed for the United Kingdom on 20 May, and returned to the province this week.

Minister Winde said: “Many of the companies had positive meetings, and there are several leads for lucrative deals. All entrepreneurs will be submitting feedback reports in the weeks ahead, and although these deals can take time to conclude, I am confident we will have a number of success stories.”

Western Cape and UK tech companies have also started collaborating with local businesses to share advice on the new economy.

“Ten UK businesses will travel to the Western Cape later this year to attend the Sharing Economy conference, an initiative we are spearheading to grow our reputation as the test bed for responsible disruption in Africa. In the lead up to the conference, they will be visiting local companies to exchange ideas on allowing the new economy to thrive and create jobs, whilst maintaining a responsible business environment,” said Minister Winde.

Initial engagements with the Virgin Group also took place.

Said Winde: “We met with Virgin Air, with a view to further increasing direct flights between our region and the United Kingdom, to improve business and leisure travel between the two destinations.”

The UK is our biggest travel, trade andTr source market.

“There are currently no direct flights on Virgin Air from the UK to Cape Town. We shared intelligence with Virgin Air which proves the route could be profitable, as well as sustainable.”

In partnership with Donald Grant, Minister of Transport, Minister Winde also initiated discussions with Virgin Trains around a potential partnership.

“Half a million Western Cape residents commute to work each day via rail. We know they are burdened by ongoing challenges with rail transport. This engenders a significant economic and emotional cost for residents.

“Unfortunately, fixing our rail system is the responsibility of national government. In line with the Constitution, we have no powers to intervene. That is why we are looking for alternative, innovative ways to help our people solve their transport needs. Talks with Virgin Trains are at a very early stage, and we look forward to taking these further, but at some point, we will require national commitment if we are to get this right.”

Minister Winde also had key meetings with government officials on Brexit, the United Kingdom’s planned exit from the European Union. Meetings were also held with the South African Business Chambers in London and Edinburg

“We met with the Department of Trade in the UK, and agreed to continue talks on enabling trade between our regions. Their present concern is to prepare for Brexit and its possible implications. New trade agreements will have to be completed once Brexit is official. My next step is to engage directly with the management of our biggest buyers from the UK.”

Tim Harris, Wesgro CEO, said: “Our International Trade unit arranged over 100 meetings for this delegation to ensure that time and opportunities there were maximised. Our positive interactions in the UK were a clear indication that the Cape is still seen as a safe, secure investment destination that can provide a stable base for businesses to grow new markets in South Africa and the rest of Africa. We’re incredibly excited by the number of leads and potential partnerships secured, and look forward to the upcoming conferences and collaborations.”