Exporters tell DTI to cut red tape and ease access

2013-02-12 00:00

THE message from disgruntled exporters has been sent loud and clear to the government — red tape, inefficiency and poor communication are preventing them from making money abroad.

Red tape within the Trade and Industry Department (DTI) was a major obstacle facing local exporters, KZN businesses told a trade workshop in Durban hosted by the department yesterday.

Greg Courtney, a director of a chemicals manufacturing company, SteriTech, said engaging with the DTI was “incredibly frustrating”.

Businesses said they struggled to sell their goods abroad because structures dealing with customs, finance and customer service at the DTI were difficult to access.

Exporters from agro-processing, chemicals manufacturing, information technology and consultancy services said other problems stemmed from bottle­necks associated with basic processes such as applying for VAT numbers, as well as a lack of funding.

The department said the workshop was part of a process to establish a national export strategy for the country. It had invited exporters and provincial government representatives to share their concerns.

KZN is regarded as one of the key entry points into the South African market. Last year, business leaders, the government and trade unions signed an agreement for at least 75% of the country’s supplies to be bought locally.

This was aimed at protecting jobs and local businesses, as well as ensuring the goals of the government’s New Growth Path plan, which hopes to create five million jobs by 2020, were achieved.

However, exporters said red tape and the difficulty in accessing basic services would hamper these objectives.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the DTI were criticised for not having appropriate communication facilities.

Janet Okeyo, a director of Upendo Promotions and Consultancy Services, which deals with business development opportunities, criticised the department for centralising its call centre in Pretoria.

“Call any DTI number and you will either not get through, or will not get a response,” she said

Zameer Mohammed, chief executive of Zam Brands, a manufacturer and exporter of spices, food and beverages, said the country was a member of the Brazil, Russia, India China, South Africa (BRICS) group of nations, but lacked transparency and knowledge of how smaller players could access the lucrative markets of the member countries.

Courtney said some government departments still bought from multinationals when they could buy from locals who could supply goods at 40 to 50% lower prices.

Hilda Moja, the DTI’s chief director of export promotion, said the concerns raised were the reason they had called for a national export strategy.

“We are looking at how we can increase and grow exports from South Africa,” she said.

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