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Consumer electronics expo to boost South Africa-China trade

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Gang Zhou deputy secretary of Shenzhen Outbound Alliance speaks at the ICEE-SA 2018 opening ceremony
Gang Zhou deputy secretary of Shenzhen Outbound Alliance speaks at the ICEE-SA 2018 opening ceremony

Economic powerhouse China has been South Africa’s biggest trade partner for the past nine years – and the potential for growth is unbounded.

The second annual International Consumer Electronics Expo South Africa (ICEE•SA 2018) will be taking place in Sandton this week, showcasing cutting-edge technology and electronics and providing opportunities to connect with some of China’s biggest technology suppliers in one place.

Among the brand-new, quality products to be displayed at the event at the Sandton Convention Centre from 7 to 9 November will be gaming and peripherals, emerging technology, vehicle technology, family and lifestyle electronics, communication products and accessories, and portable electronic products. There will also be computer hardware, software and peripherals on show – some of which will be launched in South Africa for the first time.

“ICEE•SA 2018 showcases a vision of the future and provides greater opportunity for South Africans to become part of the global technological revolution,” says expo organiser Elva Wang, project manager at Hong Kong-based DFE International.

The event not only gives consumers the chance to see and experience the latest electronics, but also gives Southern African buyers who trade in electronics “the ideal platform to negotiate with manufacturers face-to-face”, adds Wang.

The expo will include a conference on investment opportunities and trade relations between South Africa and China, taking place at 2pm on 7 November.

The ICEE•SA 2018 exhibitors are all manufacturers and factory owners from Chinese technology hub Shenzhen, located in south-eastern China on the border with Hong Kong. The city has grown from a fishing town less than four decades ago into one of China’s largest and wealthiest modern cities after being chosen as the country’s first special economic zone to fuel development.

A large percentage of the world’s electronics are manufactured in Shenzhen, which is also home to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and large high-tech companies such as telecoms firm Huawei, smartphone-maker ZTE, internet giant Tencent and drone manufacturer DJI.

South Africa has the largest consumer electronics market in Africa and plays a significant role as a hub for the growing sub-Saharan market.

Bilateral trade between South Africa and China grew by 11.7% to US$39.17-billion last year (2017), representing an increase of more than 20-fold since the start of diplomatic relations 20 years ago, according to Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu. This suggests that prospects for trade links continue to grow.

Much of the electronics on show at ICEE•SA 2018 will “fundamentally change how we think about life and business moving forward”, said Engineer and Partner at Future World International, Craig Wing, speaking at the expo media launch last week.

“The world of tomorrow is all about connectedness. The expo is all about how technology is redefining the world today.”

Using the example of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s “Singles’ Day” shopping promotion on 11 November (numerically written as 11/11, and popular among young Chinese people celebrating their pride in being single), Wing said the company made US$23.3-billion of sales in 24 hours and $5-billion worth of sales in the first 15 minutes of the promotion last year.

This translated into an astonishing 325 000 orders and 250 000 payments processed per second, with 90% of sales coming from mobile phones.

“There were one billion packages shipped from 140 000 brands and merchants in one day. This is more than a year’s worth of online sales in Brazil and 8% of South Africa’s annual GDP,” Wing pointed out. “This scale is unprecedented. If you go to any bank and ask if they can process 250 000 transactions per second, they can’t because their systems are built off legacy systems and their backends can’t support this. Technology has crept up on us and is changing our lives.”

At a media briefing during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s July 2018 state visit to South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that China had committed to $14.7-billion in investments in South Africa, and that it was ready to work with South Africa in sectors such as science and technology and finance.

Ramaphosa mentioned that although trade figures had grown steadily over the past two years, bilateral trade had not reached its full potential.

Combined existing and planned direct investment by China in South Africa reached more than $25-billion in accumulative terms by June 2017 in manufacturing, processing, mining, finance, energy, tourism, commerce, trade and services, and South Africa is now China’s largest investment destination among African countries, according to Chinese ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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