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DHL to facilitate African SME growth and digital empowerment

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Hennie Heymans, managing director for DHL Express SSA

DHL Express, the world’s leading express logistics provider, will launch its Growing Beyond Borders entrepreneurial training programme in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in the coming weeks – an innovative programme specifically designed to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) understand the economic potential of international trade and the subsequent benefits to their businesses.

The company will launch the programme in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Mauritius in October, followed shortly by South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Uganda. The programme will be expanded to a further 16 markets across SSA before the end of the first quarter of 2016.

Hennie Heymans, managing director for DHL Express SSA, says that as sub-Saharan Africa continues to emerge as a growth market, so will the continent’s attractiveness for business expansion. He adds that the stable GDP forecasts for the sub-Saharan Africa region (4.6 percent in 2016 and 5 percent 2017, coupled with a booming e-commerce sector will create significant opportunities for innovative SMEs to service online-savvy customers.

‘For example, in South Africa alone, the demand for online retail is growing rapidly, with significant opportunities existing to create cross-border e-commerce partnerships throughout Africa.’ A recent report by Ipsos, on behalf of PayPal and FNB, revealed that the majority of South African online shoppers could be cross-border shoppers in the coming years. It also showed that up to 46 percent already shop outside of South Africa. Similarly, the research shows 30 percent of Nigerian cross-border shoppers (online shoppers who have made purchases online from another country) have purchased goods from South Africa in the past 12 months.

He adds however that while local entrepreneurs are identifying expansion and growth opportunities across Africa, many simply do not have the know-how to capitalise on these.

‘Many SMEs develop a plan to grow their business internationally, but battle to turn this plan into a reality. Our Growing Beyond Borders program will provide practical guidance on how to make the most out of the opportunities available, and assist SMEs to grow and connect across Sub Saharan Africa.’

The free of charge workshop model explores importing and exporting in new markets, provides guidance on how to find key geographical opportunities for the business’ specific products and services, as well as how to identify different marketing avenues and ways to build long-term relationships with their target customers for long term success.

Heymans explains that the Growing Beyond Borders workshop is unique in that it was borne out of the same vein as the DHL Express Certified International Specialist (CIS) programme – an internal learning and development platform which has seen nearly 4,000 DHL employees in 51 countries in SSA and 100,000 employees globally, receive comprehensive training on the fundamentals of international shipping. ‘CIS equips our employees with the specialised knowledge they need to do their job competently and confidently. Similarly, the Growing Beyond Borders workshop seeks to pass on logistics knowledge to our customers, equipping them with expertise on growing their business across borders.’

‘We pride ourselves on being Certified International Specialists. DHL has been shipping across the globe since 1969, and the workshop takes entrepreneurs through the entrepreneurial history of DHL and lessons learnt from dealing with a multitude of customers along the way. DHL was founded by three far-sighted Californian businessmen, it was the potential of international trade they saw, coupled with a pioneering spirit and customer dedication focus, that has helped grow DHL into the world’s most international company,’ adds Heymans.

Since entering Africa in 1978, he says that the company has witnessed the continent develop into the emerging economic powerhouse it is today through continued foreign and local investment in the region. ‘SMEs are the lifeblood of the continent in stimulating continued economic activity, and we believe that by empowering SMEs to seize the numerous opportunities available to them, the African continent will continue to flourish,’ concludes Heymans.

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