South Africa is truly an amazing place. From the mountains to the oceans to the parks, South Africa is a place of not just diverse terrain; it is a place housing 11 different official languages, and is a melting pot of cultures. Traditional African Tribes like the Zulu and Swati; more indigenous cultures like the Khoi-Khoi and San; general white culture like the Afrikaner and English; the coloured and Malay cultures like Christian Coloureds and Muslim Coloureds & Malays; Indian culture, both Hindu and Muslim; as well as refugees from places like other African nations and even the Middle East, make up this great nation. When traveling to South Africa for work or for pleasure, it’s important to keep an open mind and to embrace the diverseness upon you.
Tradeshows take place in many different South African cities from Cape Town to Johannesburg to Durban. Arriving is different, depending upon your destination. However, one thing common to note is that often times after you pick up your bag and are on the way out, you’ll be asked to open it for inspection before you can leave the airport. Some people are able to cruise right through if all inspectors are busy, but be prepared to stop.
The official currency of South Africa is the Rand. Today, the Rand is equivalent to about 9 U.S. cents. ATMs are abundant in case you prefer that opposed to a currency exchange.
Taxis are plentiful in the major cities as a mode of transportation once you arrive. If you do rent a car, be very careful. Carjacking, or hijacking as they call it in South Africa, is a significant problem. Frequently, carjackers are armed and it is common for them to make their women victims drive their captors at gunpoint. There are signs along the road where it is common for a hijacking to occur.
South Africa has a strong business culture. Traditionally, a financially conservative nation, South Africa found themselves in a much better position during the recent economic downturn than many other nations, including the U.S. Their banks were strong because they did not over lend, and their businesses were strong because they did not overspend. Many people see South Africa as an emerging market, but in reality, they have had a sophisticated market for many years.
With more companies looking to either sell to South Africa or, perhaps, even open an office there, it is important to note their affirmative action policy. After the apartheid ended, the government introduced the Employment Equality Act, No. 55 in 1998. From that arose the BEE, or the Black Economic Empowerment. This was targeted to not necessarily right the wrongs of the past, but to promote growth and strategies that aim to assist the country in reaching its full business potential. It is important to note that while similar, both Affirmative Action and BEE are different and are meant to achieve different results.
Tradeshows are popping up everywhere in South Africa. It is becoming a large part of doing business, just as it is in many other nations. The main tradeshow cities are Johannesburg, Sandton, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria.
There are a few key items you’ll want to note when exhibiting in South Africa.
- Be careful when shipping product into or out of the country. You may find it just “goes missing.” I recommend checking an extra suitcase or two with anything important and worth significant value.
- Like many other places in the world, raised floors and building on-site is common. Most things are not as pre-built as they are in the U.S.
- Each city and each venue has different rules and regulations. Read them carefully.
- Financially, you can get a very well-built, nice stand for much less than you would spend in the U.S. or Europe.
After the show (or during if you have time), you should definitely do a bit of sightseeing. Pending your location, a safari in Kruger National Park, shark diving in Gansbaai or the beaches of Durban are all great adventures. For a taste of local cuisine, some of my favorites are Peri Peri sauce (you choose your spice level) on nearly any type of meat or vegetable you can think of, or try Bobotie, a curried meat casserole.
Enjoy South Africa – it’s one of my favorite places!