Training South African diplomats to help businesses enter new markets
Like many developing countries, South Africa is keen to use trade to help meet voter expectations for growth and jobs and to diversify its economy away from reliance on primary commodities. While the country is an active participant in international diplomatic and economic forums such as the Group of 20 leading nations and the World Trade Organization, South African policymakers want to leverage global markets to increase flows of trade and investment, particularly in labour-intensive sectors.
South Africa’s 2011 White Paper on Foreign Policy tasks diplomats with providing guidance to the government and business sector on economic and market developments and markets, as well as enhancing the competitiveness of South African goods and services in regional and global markets. South Africa currently has $31.4 billion in untapped export potential according to ITC estimates, much of it in non-mineral sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture, which would represent a sizable addition to the country’s $74.1 billion in merchandise exports in 2016.
As part of the shift towards more economically oriented diplomacy, the government sought to better equip its diplomats to identify trade opportunities and help South African businesses pursue economic interests in international markets. At the same time, it wanted to create an internal training programme to ensure diplomats and other officials had the tools and understanding of the country’s position in the global economy to formulate appropriate policies.
South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) engaged ITC to lead two training workshops for 36 of its officials in 2017. The first introduced country desk and executive officers to the use of ITC market intelligence tools such as Trade Map, which provides up-to-date statistics and market trend indicators for 220 economies, and Market Access Map, which covers data on tariffs and import regulations.
The goal was to equip them to conduct research and respond to requests about export opportunities; develop market entry feasibility studies in high-potential sectors; and contribute to designing effective strategies for South African companies seeking to break into new markets.
The second workshop trained a smaller group of participants to train others to use ITC market intelligence tools. Eight of them were certified to teach other DIRCO officials to perform market analysis and showcase the attractiveness of South Africa’s economy to prospective investors and trading partners.
Participants report that the training, which concluded in June, has enabled them better to analyse markets and make trade-related decisions. In October 2017 DIRCO charged one of the certified trainers, Ogaufi Masibi-Mampane, with training DIRCO colleagues, including future heads of diplomatic missions, to conduct market analysis.
‘The overall reception of the training was very good,’ she said. ‘The heads of mission were very keen to use the ITC tools themselves. They commended both the training and the tools and called for more of this type of training to be carried out.’
‘I believe the training I received on the ITC market analysis tools has prepared me to examine opportunities for trade and investment.
I will be able to effectively promote South Africa’s exports and encourage sustainable, inclusive and mutually beneficial trade and investment.’
Andrew Adams, South African trade official
Andrew Adams, another official, joined the South African consulate in Milan as trade consul in January 2018.
‘Diplomacy has changed in the modern era, from a political focus to more of an economic focus,’ he said. ‘If a diplomat is to succeed at selling their country, they need the relevant skills, appropriate training, and importantly, tools.
‘There have been occasions where economic opportunities have been hampered due to a lack of preparation and planning with regards to market analysis – situations that could have been avoided with some sound research and analysis. I believe the training I received on the ITC market analysis tools has prepared me to examine opportunities for trade and investment. I will be able to effectively promote South Africa’s exports and encourage sustainable, inclusive and mutually beneficial trade and investment.’
ITC conducted similar training work in Nepal and Ukraine in 2017, with programmes planned in 2018 for seven Central Asian countries and the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.
Looking ahead, ITC plans to create a network of certified trainers in market analysis and research. The programme will aim to add as many as 25 trainers in developing countries each year as well as an online network portal offering refresher courses, teaching support and updates on new developments in ITC’s suite of market analysis tools.