Interview met Jean Christian Bergsma, Executive Director bij BusinessNL
BusinessNL South Africa was established at the beginning of 2022, by a vibrant combination of entrepreneurs and public sector professionals, right before the kick-off of the first World Cup Football since the lifting of COVID-pandemic related restrictions.
We play into the clearly identifiable open space in South Africa, to optimize trade between South Africa and the Netherlands.
A combination of Directors with strong linkages to South Africa, all living between Johannesburg and Cape Town for over 10 years each, identified the need to build onto and expand the foundation laid by the Southern African Chamber of Commerce over previous years. The team is composed of senior business representatives, with experience ranging from the agricultural sector to energy & renewable energy investments and legal & regulatory oversight roles, on the knife edge between public and private sector an greatly experienced with organizing relevant matchmaking session.
Executive Director, Jean Christian Bergsma, points to the hilly Winelands in the Western Cape. We are just around the corner from his mostly self-built and off-the-grid residence. He highlights the impact of the chickenpox on the industry he has been active in locally for the past years. His in-depth knowledge of the local environment is invaluable. If you need to register your company and obtain the requisite tax certification, don’t waste your time and follow his guidance. Need contacts for sustainable agricultural projects in Limpopo or keen to invest in Green Hydrogen development in the Northern Cape, he will point you in the right direction.
What qualities do you need to do business successfully in South Africa?
Determination and slightly more patience than in the Netherlands. Surround yourself with the right professionals. There are many things you need to be aware of in South Africa, if you set yourself up correctly, encircled by a professional group of people working towards the same purpose, you can focus on your strengths and rely on the other required aspects to be taken care of.
What should you avoid whilst in South Africa?
Expecting everything to work like it does in the Netherlands. Get ready for a somewhat wilder ride. People might overtake from all sides on the highway here. Be ready for everything.
Are there any local specifics you would like to point out, which may be surprising for an outsider?
When entering the South African market, it is important to be aware of unique local legislation. An aspect impacting the South African business sector is of course Black Economic Empowerment policy. Known as BEE to the locals, this legislation is introduced to address the injustices inflicted on society during the Apartheid past. Its aim is to ensure that the business world is a balanced reflection of the people living in the democratic Republic of South Africa.
Compliance with the principles whilst achieving business goals may be considered daunting at first. Ensure to study the topic and make sure to that a well-considered position in this regard.
Most importantly, do not forget to enjoy the many aspects of this wondrous country. South Africa offers everything. From oceans to wildlife, first class wine to exquisite dining experiences.
It also has all the essential ingredients in place to be a thriving economy, a destination of choice for investment.
With its natural resources, arid lands and young population, there is boundless opportunity for growth, both for multinational corporates and SMME’s.
Jean Christian Bergsma, Executive Director bij BusinessNL