Valuable trade links between the North East and South Africa will be strengthened when a major event takes place in Newcastle.
Scores of business leaders and politicians from South Africa and the North East are expected to attend the trade seminar and exhibition on Thursday, October 3.
The purpose is to bring together businesses to cement existing networks and create new ones to open up new business opportunities for investment and jobs
As well as trade links, cultural links will also be strengthened as the North East is twinned with the Eastern Cape.
Supporters of the event include Heathrow Airport, the Association of North East Councils (ANEC), the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and Newcastle City Council, which is hosting the event at the Civic Centre.
The event will be chaired by South African-born Richard Swart, managing director of Peterlee-based Berger Group (Europe) who is also chairman of the International Committee for the North East Chamber of Commerce.
Swart said: “This is a wonderful initiative by the South African High Commission in London, and we are delighted, due to historic links to our region, that they have chosen the North East as part of their new regional outreach programme. The initiative has been fully embraced by a wide range of regional bodies and businesses in the North East.
“It will be a tremendous way to strengthen existing bridges and build new ones in a range of sectors where there is so much in common, including business support and financial services, automotive, tourism, cultural, sports, oil and gas, renewables, chemicals, life services and education.”
Coun Paul Watson, chairman of ANEC, added: “ANEC welcomes positive steps in strengthening existing relations and creating new businesses and cultural links between the North East and South Africa.
“North East councils are committed to economic growth and welcome the opportunities that forging links can bring for future investment and jobs across a range of local industries.”
The event will be opened by Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes, followed by a series of presentations on the economy, connections and future ways of working. It is supported by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.
The seminar will be followed by a networking dinner with 10% of all sponsorship going to support an educational project on the Eastern Cape.
After lunch there will be a range of discussions on the automotive industry; culture, sport and tourism; renewable energy; financial services; the chemical industry; oil and gas; business support services; and education.
The networking dinner will include a talk from Archie Sibeko, who stood trial alongside Nelson Mandela in 1956. He returned to political life in South Africa when apartheid ended before retiring to the North East.
In 2012 North East companies exported goods worth £198.5m to South Africa and imported £98m of goods. The UK is in SA’s premier league of trading partners with more than £10.5bn in bilateral trade. In 2012 South Africa was the top African market for UK exports.