Interview: Romania, a gateway for South Africans investors to Europe

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Interview with Neal Barber, President of Romanian – South African Business Association (ROSABA) and Managing Partner of Blue Projects.



Romanian – South African Business Association (ROSABA) appeared last year to facilitate the development of suitable business opportunities for South African companies in Romania, as well as domestic companies planning to expand to South Africa & SADEC. What exactly does this association do?

The EU remains South Africa’s single most important trading partner, and likewise South Africa is the EU’s largest trading partner in Africa, and therefore enormous opportunities exist for Romanian and South African businesses.

In 2014 ROSABA was established to create a platform to leverage bilateral opportunities that exist for trade and investment in these markets.

ROSABA’s vision is to be the leading representative for South African companies doing business in Romania, and for Romanian businesses planning to expand to South Africa.

In the first year of ROSABA’s operation, we managed to put things together and realize where opportunities existed to do things better. The first thing we did was to set up a board, and develop a detailed strategy in order to meet our objectives.

The purpose was to build the right team of business leaders with vast experience across different industry sectors that could be used as a forum for potential investors to liaise with in terms of the challenges and opportunities that exist with developing business in both countries.

Romania is most certainly on the investment map in South Africa, however a number of companies are unsure as to the most suitable entry strategy into the market and ROSABA can assist with facilitating this.


Do you mean that ROSABA activity is slightly different from that of a Chamber of Commerce?

Yes! The economic and political relations between Romania and South Africa have always been good, even during the Communist period, but from business perspective, we believed the connection was missing.

We believe that ROSABA is not going to be like other South African Chambers of Commerce that exist, because the number of South Africans in Romania is quite small, however the direct and indirect investment generated through this small group is significant, and surely the highest in Romania.

We therefore see steady growth in our membership base, with a primary focus being on assisting serious potential investors through the development process.


So, what is your message to the South African investor who wants to come to Romania?

Romania is a country full of well educated, hardworking and vibrant people that are dedicated and passionate to develop not only themselves but also their futures.

At Blue Projects we have delivered a number of large scale industrial projects to blue chip international companies locally and abroad, and we have pitched our team against the best engineering companies in Europe and I have to say that our team have succeeded in delivering record breaking projects in terms of delivery, quality, and cost. Some of these projects are being used as benchmarks and case studies to be rolled out globally within these companies.

The business world as we know is continuously evolving, and in order to remain a player in the market, one requires a smart, flexible and dynamic team that can rapidly adapt to any challenges or market shifts that are thrown its way. I believe that Romania has an abundance of these individuals and I believe that enormous opportunities exist to develop businesses in Romania.


What are the domains of interest for South African businessmen here?

I believe large scale opportunities exist across all economic sectors for South Africans to develop business in Romania.

There are currently a number of South African businesses with interests in Romania as well as a number of leading management positions held by South African executives, and this trend is most definitely on the increase. A number of these companies have already established prominent positions across the complete spectrum of the local business environment and continue to grow from strength to strength; namely NEPI, SAB Miller – URSUS, Blue Projects, Metair Group – Rombat, Bistrita Nasaud, Naspers – Emag /PAY U, Wild Olive, Theranova an Oradea based NGO providing Prosthetic amputee rehabilitation, and the recent Steinhoff Group acquisition of Austrian furniture retailer Kika – Leiner including its Romanian operations.

This being said ROSABA has chosen to actively focus on manufacturing, automotive, agriculture, energy & environmental, real estate, logistics, healthcare and education.


From your point of view, what are the opportunities for a Romanian businessman to come and invest in your country?

South Africa is currently investing largely in upgrading the country’s infrastructure, and as such large scale opportunities exist within public sector as well as second tier opportunities in the private sector off the back of these large investments.

Energy, renewables and water are currently in focus and already ROSABA has assisted Monsson Group in establishing an operation in South Africa, and Electrica Serv are in detailed discussions to develop a footprint in South Africa.

ROSABA is actively assisting with its members to provide consulting advice both strategically and legally as to local requirements in South Africa and linking these businesses with the department of trade and industry to assist with positioning these companies and linking them with potential opportunities and partners.

Further to the public sector vast opportunities exist in the mining, manufacturing, automotive, education, and services sectors to name a few, but investors should be reminded that for companies planning to expand into the African market, South Africa is most certainly the ideal gateway to expand from.


Based on the available data, what do the economic relations between the two countries look like?

The trade between South Africa and Romania is in your country favour and looks very impressive. In the last years, South Africa imports from Romania are on an upward trend: from almost EUR 80 million in 2012, to over EUR 131 million in 2013, while South African exports to Romania reached EUR 29,549,000 in 2012 and EUR 31,591,000 in 2013.

Romania’s exports to South Africa amounted to EUR 183.97 million last year, up by over 38 percent y-o-y and the imports registered a slight increase of 6.25 percent, from EUR 31.97 million in 2013 to EUR 33.97 million in 2014.

This being said I still believe that trade between the two countries is in its infancy and has enormous potential to develop into significant trading partners.




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