For the first time, service associations in southern Africa met to discuss the potential of regional trade for their exporters.
While service firms account for much of southern Africa's economic growth and new jobs, export strategies in the region have rarely focused on this "invisible" sector. Countries need to be more sensitive to the fact that trade in services exists and represents enormous economic opportunities, including between countries in the South.
With that aim, ITC organized a "Bridges across Borders" meeting for service sector associations from nine countries in southern Africa (Johannesburg, South Africa, December 2005). Representatives from the associations exchanged information about their markets and prospected for business opportunities for their firms. ITC also invited the local media to report on the event and help raise awareness about opportunities for trade in services.
Putting services in the spotlight
At a press conference, the media brought up the problem of finding reliable data on trade in services and said the event helped them to capture some of this unknown information. Print, television, radio and online media covered the meeting or had a feature on trade in services. Some "prime-time" national news bulletins featured interviews with participants and ITC staff.
At the meeting, the Government of South Africa showed it has understood the business opportunities in services and the need to give them special attention. Raymond Ngcobo of South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry said, "The Government will review its incentives programme to ensure that the service sector receives the lion's share."
Present were 165 service associations, representing …