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New Honorary Consul appointed to strengthen trade links between UK and SA

 

New Honorary Consul appointed to strengthen trade links between UK and SA
08-05-24 / Chris Smit

New Honorary Consul appointed to strengthen trade links between UK and SA

London - The South African Government has appointed a leading African-born entrepreneur as a new Honorary Consul to South Africa in the UK to strengthen trade links between the two countries.

Businessman Bassim Haidar (right) made his first official visit to the East of England region as Honorary Consul for South Africa with the South African High Commissioner His Excellency Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo (centre). The East of England is the UK’s second largest exporter and importer of goods to and from South Africa.

Mr Haidar and the High Commissioner visited Ipswich sustainable packaging company Frugalpac in Suffolk, which makes the Frugal Bottle, the world’s first paper bottle for wines and spirits and provide paper bottles filled with South African wine for supermarket Aldi and bars and restaurants. They also congratulated Frugalpac on just being awarded a King’s Award for Enterprise for innovation.

Two South African wineries already use the Frugal Bottle including Journey’s End Vineyards with Interpunkt wine near Cape Town and Stellenbosch Vineyards’ Arniston Bay wines.

Both were presented with a commemorative paper bottle that will be filled with South African wine and given to guests at a special ceremony in Westminster Abbey in July to mark the 30th anniversary of democratic elections in South Africa.

They also visited the Port of Felixstowe and held a roundtable with businesses at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce at the University of Suffolk.

Mr Haidar and the High Commissioner then visited Cambridgeshire to see the Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Genomic Surveillance Unit (GSU) which announced in January it has partnered with South Africa’s Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) to coordinate the genomic surveillance of infectious diseases globally.

The two institutions were instrumental in identifying and monitoring variants of COVID-19 as they emerged during the pandemic.

Mr Haidar and the High Commissioner were then given a tour of the University of Cambridge’s Jesus College by the Director of the Intellectual Forum Dr Julian Huppert and visited the University of Cambridge’s Cambridge Africa programme, which supports African researchers and promotes mutually beneficial collaborations and equitable partnerships between Africa and Cambridge.

Mr Haidar and the High Commissioner finished their visit to Cambridgeshire with a roundtable with local businesses held at the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce and bilateral meetings with the Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson and Councillor Kay Mason Billig of Suffolk County Council to look at ways to boost trade between the region and South Africa.

According to the Government’s latest trade data, the East of England region is the second largest importer of South African goods and the second largest exporter of goods to South Africa in the UK. In 2022, £207m of goods were exported from the region to South Africa and £1.1b of goods imported to the Eastern region from the country.

Mr Haidar is a global business leader with companies across the fintech, technology, telecoms, logistics, energy, engineering and medical sectors, leading a multi-sector conglomerate with operations across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with annual revenues exceeding £1.3bn.

He founded Optasia, a leading vendor mobile financial and fintech services, currently serving over 650 million people in 30 countries.

Mr Haidar also has extensive business interests in South Africa, founding agri-tech firm SafriCanna which exports to several countries worldwide.

Mr Haidar said: “It is a great privilege to have been appointed as the new Honorary Consul for South Africa.

“A key focus for my new role is to facilitate the exchange of medical and scientific innovation from the UK for the benefit of South Africa, as well as introducing South African intellectual property and innovation to the UK.

“Another aim is to actively engage with regional educational institutions to initiate bi-lateral programmes focused on academic and cultural exchange.

“It was fascinating to see how a company like Frugalpac is partnering with South African wineries to decarbonise the drinks industry, how Felixstowe is thriving and to meet so many innovative local companies keen to trade with South Africa.

 “Collaboration and innovation are key for boosting international trade so it was was fascinating to see how well that is going already with the partnership between the Sanger Institute and South Africa’s Stellenbosch University.

“In the UK, the East of England is a real trading powerhouse with South Africa and I want to use my global business experience to make these trade links even stronger.

“To this end, I look forward to engaging with businesses, politicians and universities in my new role and establishing how best we can work together to strengthen the historic and treasured ties between the UK and South Africa."

South African High Commissioner His Excellency Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo said: “We’d like to thank everyone who made us feel so welcome during the visits. 2024 is a key year for South Africa as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of multi-racial democratic elections.

“The UK has always been a steadfast ally as we transformed to a true democracy and we hope the strong trade, educational and cultural links that bind us together, become even stronger with Mr Haidar’s new appointment.”

John Sillitoe, Director of the Genomic Surveillance Unit (GSU) at the Wellcome Sanger Institute said: “We were honoured to welcome Mr Haidar and the South African High Commissioner to see the Genomic Surveillance Unit and find out about our partnership Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI).

“Whilst our institutes are thousands of miles apart, our aims and thinking are side-by-side. The partnership means we can share resources and expertise and use genomics to support the control of infectious diseases in the UK, in South Africa, and around the world.”

Frugalpac CEO Malcolm Waugh added: “We were really pleased to receive Mr Haidar and His Excellency to Frugalpac to brief them about our Frugal Bottle and the export of our Frugal Bottle Assembly Machines.

“South Africa has been an early adopter to our paper bottles with Journey’s End Vineyards with Interpunkt wines near Cape Town and Stellenbosch Vineyards’ Arniston Bay wines using our Frugal Bottle. We also have several active leads with South African companies keen to acquire one of our machines.

“We’re confident that Mr Haidar’s appointment as Honorary Consul will see a strong advocate for greater trade between our two countries.”

Dr. Ilona Karpanos, International Trade Advisor at the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce said: “The Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce were delighted to host a roundtable with the South African delegation. Fostering international collaboration is at the heart of what we do.

“Cambridgeshire is a hub of innovation and manufacturing which exports to every corner of the globe and we will continue to support the business community to enable both import and export.”

Koyas Miah, Suffolk Chamber’s international trade manager, added: “The Suffolk businesses present were pleased to meet with this high-powered South African delegation.

“Home to three significant ports and close to London and its major airports, Suffolk has a proud international trade track record and this meeting provided the perfect platform for them to better understand the scale and type of future opportunities within the South African economy.”

Honorary Consuls are tasked with the promotion of South African export trade, serving as a contact person for visiting South African businesspeople, distributing general information on South Africa and representing South Africa at functions and receptions.

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