Republic of South Africa ～Business under the Southern Cross～
By Minoru Morita,
Representative in Johannesburg
What do you know about the Republic of South Africa?
The Republic of South Africa boasts some of the largest mineral resources in the world. The country, blessed with a variety of climates and abundant natural beauty, is also famous for its magnificent safari parks. The streets of Johannesburg, where our office is located, remind you of those in Europe and Western sports such as rugby, golf and cricket are highly popular, with South Africa boasting some of the world's top players in these disciplines.
The Republic of South Africa has come under fire internationally for its former apartheid, or racial discrimination, policy. It is well known that, following the end of the apartheid regime that lasted for more than four decades, having started in 1948, Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black President in the 1994 general election. The country is currently afflicted with many serious problems such as poverty among black families and HIV/AIDS. It has been reported that the number of HIV-infected patients in this country is the largest in the world. In the near future, however, it is hoped that, as black and white people will truly be united, these problems will be resolved; and that the time will come when we can walk safely day and night on the streets in the city of Johannesburg, which is currently ranked in the world's worst three areas in terms of street crime. Then, South Africa will truly attain the status it deserves.
Our business activities in Johannesburg are categorized into the following three groups:
The first is a business dealing with House Hold Insecticides. We supply Technical Grades of Insecticides (active ingredients for Aerosols, Mosquito Coils, and other insecticides) manufactured in Japan and Mosquito Coils manufactured in Indonesia to a major local distributor of consumer products. In this kind of business, we need to pay constant and careful attention to inventory management and the risk of exchange-rate fluctuations. Since being assigned to the Johannesburg office, one of my major concerns has been how to improve our business relationships with customers. I believe solid relationships built on effective and open interaction between people underpin all successful business. I therefore have made every possible effort to establish stronger and closer relationships with our customers from top to bottom for the past five years. I am confident that this has helped maintain continuous expansion of our business and the establishment of new business opportunities, and I will continue to do more.
Our second focus is the agricultural chemicals business. Considerable emphasis is placed on developing agricultural chemicals and increasing sales of these products. I sometimes have to drive around the fields for many hours to sell products and other times experience difficulty in collecting bills. In collaboration with a South African staff member, who serves as a consultant to our company, I also organize regional seminars on agricultural chemical technology. These seminars are provided in Afrikaans (a mixture of 80% Dutch and 20% German), the language used among agricultural communities in South Africa—a language I have no knowledge of. Aiming to make agricultural chemicals a mainstay of our business in South Africa, I constantly take on new challenges in the fields of wheat, corn, oranges, apples and grapes.
The third component is our malaria control-related business. Products we deal with include Mosquito Nets, Indoor Residual Sprays, Sprayers and Insect Repellent Clothing. We supply our products to the United Nations, the World Bank and Japanese governmental funds and aid projects, rather than private companies. In order to expand our business, I also visit other southern African countries (like Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe), in addition to South Africa, where I try my best to establish new business relationships.
In closing, I would like to talk about the stars that shine in South Africa's southern sky. Among many stars, although it is the smallest of the constellations, the Southern Cross shines most brilliantly. Despite my constant anxiety about business in Africa, whenever I look up at the night sky from my garden, the Southern Cross encourages me to hang in there and believe in tomorrow. This may well be the magic power of the Southern Cross.