United Forest Products, a significant business in the marketing of timber and timber-related services, was invited to take part in the Transylvanian Clusters International Conference, the largest international event dedicated to clusters, which was held in Transylvania, Romania, from 18 to 20 September 2019.
Only two other South African companies were invited to take part. Team South Africa was represented by Joey Lascelles from United Forest Products, John Noble from Kluyts & Co and Michael Reddy from Furntech.
The conference is organised by the Northern Transylvanian Clusters Consortium, which works as a network of support for those operating in the economic environment. It aims to facilitate the international exchange of knowledge and good practices and to provide a cross- sectoral collaboration platform for addressing global challenges.
Hosted in Cluj-Napoca, this year’s conference was themed ‘Clusters: Ecosystems for Innovation and New Business’ and focussed on the benefits that clusters can bring to the world-wide economy.
“Although there are similarities between our countries, a prominent difference is the human resources shortage in Romania, especially in the manufacturing industry,” said Joey Lascelles, the CEO of United Forest Products.
She explained that in SA, with its ever-increasing unemployment rate – especially school leavers and youth – it is critical to attract investment into the manufacturing industry. “The recent positive changes in government, which have placed an emphasis on labour policy reform, will greatly assist with labour-related problems,” she said.
For example, a quick internet search on major suppliers of office furniture and chairs in SA revealed that there’s one Ikea distributor, with limited stock; most suppliers import from Asia, with the exception of one that partly imports from Italy and one from the United Kingdom (assembly is done in SA); and the chair price range differs from €65 to €428.
“When looking at this, there could be an opportunity for Antaras, for example, to consider a distribution network or establish a manufacturing facility in SA where they might be able to compete on quality and durability and access to African markets,” said Lascelles.
Team South Africa believes that a partnership must be developed as a model of what the two countries can do together and will work together to develop a coherent proposal that can be implemented over the short, medium and long term.
One suggestion is to form a South African Romanian Commerce link to promote business relations between the two countries.
“The majority of businesses that I interacted with indicated that trade is mainly concluded on the European continent and SA business is definitely not exposed to Romanian business opportunities. This can be established utilising Romania’s strong IT capability and establishing a B2B platform on a user pay basis,” Lascelles explained.
Looking ahead, Lascelles is excited to develop a timber/wood cluster for Mpumalanga. “Industry roleplayers have already shown interest and I look forward to working on this dream.”
For more information about the conference, visit www.transylvanianclusters.ro. For more information about United Forest Products, visit www.unitedforestproducts.co.za and Like us on Facebook: @UnitedForestProducts.