Last week I racked up loads of air miles traveling for food & drink technology Africa (fdt), our trade fair abroad. Together with our Africa expert Elaine Crewe, General Manager of our subsidiary MM SA, and Skander Negasi, Representative for Africa Subsahara (excl. South Africa), we visited Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia on our “Round Table” talking tour. The talks focused on the needs and interests of our customers – one, because we see ourselves as a true partner of the industry, and two, because we want fdt to be as targeted a market place as possible for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. We were also keen to make contacts with key multipliers, e.g. industry associations, so that we can work hand in hand with industry and continue the successful development of fdt Africa, the upcoming edition of which takes place on September 14 and 15 in Johannesburg.
The “Round Table” Talking Tour – An Overview
But first things first: The start of the tour was on Whit Monday in Munich (Day 1/Germany). I flew direct from a rainy Germany to sunny Johannesburg (Day 2/South Africa). Elaine and Skander met me at the airport and we set off immediately for Lusaka, Zambia (Day 2/Zambia). Upon arrival, we settled into our hotel, enjoyed a cold beer and then went through the presentation together to coordinate our core statements, and to go over who was doing what in the Round Table talks.
Day 3 – 1st Round Table Talk in Zambia: Our audience—from the beverage and food industry, from the associations and also from the Zambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry—arrived one after the other for our morning event and all were in a good mood and happy to engage in conversation. Technologies for improving energy-efficiency, recycling and for the cold chain were among the topics of prime interest. And for our part, in terms of collecting ideas for the medium-term development of the accompanying program at fdt, we came away with topics such as customs, weight and logistics for commercial goods. Also an option for that program would be a panel discussion about the structure of the customers. What I didn´t realize before was how important Zambia is as regards trade for the neighboring eight countries (some mentioned 9 countries, but I only counted 8 on the map), which are linked via a transit route.
I was especially pleased with the offer of the Zambian Chamber of Commerce und Industry to support us as regards a delegation tour of Zambia in connection with food & drink technology Africa. Over lunch together we were able to go into greater depth on the themes and then it was back to the airport for us, to fly on to Harare, Zimbabwe (Day 3/ Zimbabwe).
Day 4 – 2nd Round Table Talk – Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe, once the granary of Africa, is today still enduring tough times. However, in the eyes of our participants there are some hopeful signs that things might at last pick up and that investment could start to happen again in the processing of raw materials. The main themes, therefore, were very clearly user-friendly and affordable technologies, finance and trainee programs. I was particularly touched by this event, because there was so much hope in the room. Unfortunately we were not able to join the attendees for lunch, as we had to go back to the airport straight after the event and fly via Johannesburg to Windhoek, Namibia (Day 4, Namibia).
Day 5. Our last Round Table Talk – Namibia. This time Elaine wasn´t with us, instead Dain accompanied us, another colleague from MM SA. She has a British passport and so entry into Namibia was easier for her. Here, too, we welcomed a wide cross section of people from the beverage and food industry, and also, completing the session, the German Ambassador and the Namibian Minister of Industry and Trade. The debate started then straight away about the high wages in Namibia, one consequence of which is that many goods are imported from South Africa. Among the trade themes discussed, as well as the ones mentioned above, were biodegradable packaging, the use of local flavor carriers in the beverage and food industry, and barcode systems. I was delighted about the interest of the participants from industry in additional networking platforms, as a way of maintaining exchange with the neighboring countries, and even in getting involved in the Advisory Board to fdt.
All in all it was very clear that the market and the demand is there in Africa and as soon as an integrated framework for processing and refining the raw materials is in place, then things will really take off in these countries—of that I am convinced. I am proud that we with our fdt platform and our networks are already today making a valuable contribution in that direction.
Time for a Little Adventure
Following these very intensive sessions and the many new impressions and encounters with interesting people, I was then ready to enjoy something of the wonderful natural environment that South Africa has to offer. I also needed some time to process what I had experienced. I went to a safari lodge where upon arrival I was treated to an outdoor massage, with antelopes as onlookers! That was superbly relaxing, and I followed it up with a cold beer and an eland steak (I just had to try it, even though I had seen how splendid these animals look…). After that it was straight to bed for a well earned sleep. The next morning, hardly had I opened my eyes when the animal world again grabbed my attention: a family of five water bucks (another type of antelope) was standing in front of my window looking in. What a way to start the day! I was captivated. And that feeling continued in the afternoon on a safari tour. Rhinoceros, antelopes of all kinds, monkeys, ostriches and zebras, all within touching distance. It was fantastic. I rounded off this day in the African “wilderness” in appropriate fashion: with a sundowner, while watching the sun set in the west and at the same time the moon rise in the east. An unforgettable experience.
On Sunday, the day I left, I managed to meet with the Supply Chain Manager of Namibia Brewery and was very much impressed by the size of the brewery (3 million hectoliters/year) and its high-tech equipment. The “Who´s Who” of the German beverage technology suppliers is represented here.
This trip was most certainly full of diversity and very pleasant surprises.
I would love to go back some time and I recommend everyone should try and discover something of this continent for themselves. A good occasion to do that of course would be at food & drink technology Africa on September 14 and 15, 2016. September is after all a perfect month for a holiday in southern Africa.
Till next time.