Pictured is the team from Research Unit, 2018's overall winners of the Exporter of the Year competition.

Twenty-eight years of Exporter of the Year competitions run by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry and sponsored by the Export Credit Insurance Corporation, have proven that enterprise and innovation are the important driving forces in the Western Cape economy.

The 2018 finalists were:
  • All Women Recycling, a Muizenberg company which transforms plastic waste into beautiful handcraft items, gifts and gadgets;
  • Caffenu, which makes cleansing capsules for coffee machines;
  • Cape Cookies, which manufactures and exports biscuits;
  • Ele Trading markets and exports fresh produce;
  • Elim Spa Products International, which produces a wide range of heath-restoring spa and beauty products;
  • Folio Online, a translation service for Africa and the world;
  • Kallos Global (Pty) Ltd and Global Fruit Masters (Pty) Ltd, which procure and distribute fruit and vegetables;
  • Overhex Wines International, winner of international awards;
  • Research Unit, manufacturer of stylish leather handbags;
  • Slent Farms, which makes and exports wine; and
  • Tradewinds Parasols makes patio umbrellas and shades.

A consistent performer over the years has been the agricultural sector, especially the fruit and wine exporters which produce 50% of South Africa’s agricultural exports worth many billions of rands each year. They continue to perform well despite the recent drought. The sector has managed this by embracing the latest technology to get value for every drop of water and is able to claim that it achieves double the production on half the water.

The investments have been huge but farmers have developed the industry to a point where quality is more consistent and demand from the international markets is growing. Perhaps even more important is that it is an industry that creates jobs on the land, in the pack-houses and in the factories which process the fruit. It has been a pleasure for the Chamber to play a role in promoting this vital industry which continues to grow.

Technical Systems, which has won Exporter of the Year three times, makes and supplies automated feeding systems to chicken and pig farms in more than 50 countries. Its standards are so high that there has been little imitation of its products, even in China, one of its most important markets.

Another growing company that produces food is Abagold, winner of the 2016 Exporter of the Year award. It is the biggest abalone producer outside China and it has a unique problem: it is almost impossible to meet the ever-growing demand for its products from the East. The firm was started by a vet in Hermanus and there are now more than a dozen other companies that have ventured into the legal abalone business.

The industry is particularly important because prospects are virtually unlimited, and it is creating jobs for former workers in the small-boat fishing industry. In the long term it is building up the knowledge, experience and technology to produce more marine products, something that will be necessary as over-fishing is depleting natural fish stocks. We all hope that the industry will develop to the point where it puts the poachers out of business.

Maverick Trading, another former winner, found a way to make manhole and drain covers out of polymers and concrete to replace the cast-iron covers which scrap metal thieves found so attractive.

We have also had spectacular winners like Mark Shuttleworth’s Thawte Consulting which was sold to Verisign for R3.5-billion shortly after it was named our 1999 Exporter of the Year.

The 2018 finalists competed in seven categories and the big winners at our gala dinner in October were Research Unit, manufacturer of designer handbags, and All Women Recycling.

All Women Recycling won the Finex SA trophy, the Cape Chamber award and the Nedbank trophy.

For the first time in the history of the competition, one firm, Research Unit, won four categories – the ECIC/Cape Chamber award for the overall best exporter, the Transnet Port Terminals award for the best manufacturing exporter, the Small Exporter category and the Innovation Award.

All Women Recycling won the Finex SA trophy for the best non-engineering exporter, the Cape Chamber award for Design and the Nedbank trophy for Transformation.

Winner of the Gerald Wolman Award for Excellence in Exporting to Africa was the translation service, Folio Online.

Janine Myburgh, President of the Chamber, said the competition was not based on the sheer volume and value of exports but on excellence in exporting and the growth of exports. This created a level playing field for both small and large exporters. “It has been a real pleasure for the Chamber to welcome and honour new exporters and watch them grow. They are a very important part of our future.”

www.capechamber.co.za