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From street vendor to international exporter

Written by Hlengiwe Ngobese

A Kwazulu-Natal trade and inward investment promotion agency is creating a platform for emerging exporters to gain access to global markets.

Mthokozisi Mkhwanazi is one of the people who have taken advantage of trade relations between South Africa and China.Bilateral trade between South Africa and China has yielded positive results for a KwaMashu businessman who exports oranges to the East Asian country.

Mthokozisi Mkhwanazi’s Isivuno Food Company recently secured a contract to supply 10 containers of this citrus fruit to Shanghai, which is China’s biggest city.

The 36-year-old’s journey is a remarkable one. He was once a street vendor peddling produce he bought from the Durban Fresh Produce Market.

In 2015, he took a leap of faith and started Isivuno, which sources oranges and grapes from farmers across South Africa to export to international markets.

Mkhwanazi said winning the Shanghai contract would not have been possible without the support given to him through the emerging exporters programme run by Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN).

“TIKZN has been very instrumental in equipping me with the skills and platforms required for the growth of my business. The incubation programme focuses on export and market opportunities. I received step-by-step mentorship through the programme, including pricing and marketing the business to international clients.”

He said the organisation assisted him to register with the Perishable Products Export Control Board so that he could export high-quality products to international markets.

“They even organised an international trade mission to Dongguan in China, in collaboration with the Dongguan Economic and Trade Office. While in China, we had the chance to showcase our businesses and network with other international companies,” he said.

The trip was successful and Isivuno won a contract to export four tons of grapes to Dongguan.

TIKZN’s executive manager of export promotion, Lester Bouah, said many investors are reluctant to make investments in South Africa because of a lack of understanding of the nation.

“But since black businesses like Isivuno started trading with China, the confidence of international investors has improved,” he said, adding that through bilateral trade between South Africa and China, over 50 Dongguan-based companies are now importing goods to South Africa while timber, oranges, grapefruit and grapes from South Africa are exported to China.