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North East businesses meet delegation from Newcastle, South Africa

Businesses from two very different Newcastles have been meeting at a special event to discuss international trade opportunities.

A delegation from Newcastle in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal province met with some of their counterparts and small businesses from Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, ahead of South Africa’s Rugby World clash with Scotland at St James’s Park.

Arranged by the North East LEP in collaboration with UKTI, Newcastle South Africa, the Asian Business Club and Cllr David Faulkner from Newcastle City Council, Friday’s meeting at the Beacon Bistro was a great opportunity to look at areas for collaboration between the two Newcastles.

The event, A Private Audience with South Africa, was addressed by LEP chief executive Bob Paton. He shared the LEP’s vision for more and better jobs and creating more and better links with the local and international audience. Colin Bell, the LEP’s North East Growth Hub project manager, highlighted what the North East can offer, while Tony Lewin from Newcastle College discussed enterprise and education, and UKTI’s Simon Crosby spoke about Great British Business.

Ammar Mirza, the current David Goldman Visiting Professor for Innovation and Enterprise at Newcastle University, and North East LEP Business Support board member, was one of the organisers of the event.

He said: “The landscape of South Africa’s Newcastle is changing and there are opportunities for businesses here in the North East to get involved.

“The meeting provided local firms with some great information about the municipality and the kinds of goods and services it’s looking for. There are some interesting developments underway, which North East businesses could benefit from.”

North East businesses a valuable introduction to the area from Newcastle South Africa’s Lord Mayor Afzal Rehman and Matthew Shunmugam, who heads development, planning and human settlements for the Newcastle Municipality.

The South African Newcastle, located between Johannesburg and Durban, has a strong manufacturing sector, based around the steel, chemicals, cement and textiles industries. Construction, diamond cutting and leisure are also important parts of the area’s economy. Currently, the municipality has a number of major projects underway, including revitalisation of the airport and rail network, plus some major urban redevelopment schemes such as the new civic centre, justice complex, hospital and city centre access improvement works. The municipality is also investing in technology, with a planned technology hub and technopark on the agenda.

Businesses at the event were able to discuss opportunities in more detail with the South African delegation, Cllr Faulkner – who has long championed international links with Newcastle and is a great local ambassador – and UKTI staff able to help firms new to exporting, as well as those seeking to expand their overseas sales.

North East LEP chief executive, Bob Paton, said: “The meeting gave North East businesses a good introduction to exporting and investing in South Africa, and also gave us a chance to share the LEP’s vision with the South African visitors. We’ll be following up our discussions with the South African delegation and look forward to working with them in the future.”

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