By Steve Gilroy, Vistage - The World's Leading Chief Executive Organisation

While much of the world staggered in the wake of the global financial meltdown, South Africa has managed to stay on its feet — largely due to its prudent fiscal and monetary policies. The country is politically stable and has a well capitalised banking system, abundant natural resources, well developed regulatory systems as well as research and development capabilities, and an established manufacturing base.

Ranked by the World Bank as an “upper middle-income country”, South Africa is the largest economy in Africa. It was admitted to the BRIC group of countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China (known as BRICS) in 2011. Quite an achievement for a country that was ‘reborn’ politically in 1994.

In comparison to other BRIC nations, South Africa is spending two to three times more on education — 7.18 per cent of its GDP. However, unit labour costs in South Africa are still significantly lower than those of many other emerging markets.

With a world-class and progressive legal framework, similar in structure to the UK, South African legislation governing commerce, labour and maritime issues are particularly strong, and laws on competition policy, copyright, patents, trademarks and disputes conform to international norms and standards.

The country's modern infrastructure supports the efficient distribution of goods throughout the southern African region. With English being widely spoken and a time difference of only 1 — 2 hours from the UK, South Africa is an obvious starting point for your business’s African growth.

For those business leaders concerned about the complexity and risk associated with trading in South Africa, a structured approach to researching and developing a strategy for the country is required.

To develop a sound strategy, a project team should be established, looking at the following areas:

• Market research — understanding the potential for your products/services, who the major competitors and distributors are and where your best potential clients are based. Look to see if there are import restrictions and compliance requirements for your products/services.

• How will you sell? — do you look to establish a sales office, purchase a local business to gain clients, develop distribution partners, franchise your business or sell remotely through the web.

• How will you market your product? — Look at competitor marketing and branding in the country, what language, colours and style are they using, do you know who could assist you in localising your content? What trade shows, exhibition, media and websites will help promote your products and services?

• How will you design agreements, contracts, supporting finance and a business structure to support your growth ambitions? Who has the expertise to assist you in validating your plans and making them a reality?

• Who will be your first contacts in South Africa? What organisations can help you establish a local network and presence?

• Who could you learn from who has already successfully developed their business into South Africa?

All these questions and many more will be answered at a special event concentrating on the opportunity for UK businesses in South Africa.

Vistage – the world’s leading Chief Executive peer-group organisation – is hosting this event for UK entrepreneurs and business leaders that will explore the options and practical routes to exploit the opportunities in the BRICS countries.

For more information on this special event please see here and take advantage of the early bird discounts to an event that could provide you with a pathway to international growth.