Madoda Khuzwayo is the founder and chairman of a Johannesburg-based tech company, OPENTENDERS. It is with OPENTENDERS – a web portal publishing government and private tenders – that Khuzwayo has trotted the globe accompanied by business and government delegates.
“My company brings a solutions designed to help businesses identify procurement opportunities and tenders from private sector and all levels of government,” he said.
Khuzwayo says he established OPENTENDERS “from the pain of lacking information” caused by the disconnect between government’s procurement and the suppliers.
“I collate all tenders issued from all departments and put them together in one portal. That makes the information easily available to anyone, even beyond our borders, who is interested in tenders,” he said.
Khuzwayo says government procures R1.3 trillion worth of goods and services a year from private suppliers. But the problem is that these tenders rotate within a small circle of companies.
Access to markets
Khuzwayo is a beneficiary of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Export Marketing and Investment Assistance (EMIA). It’s through the incentives that he says he has been able grow its client-base outside of the country and into the rest of the continent.
“There have been many opportunities opened to us by EMIA which we would not have accessed,” said Khuzwayo. “It’s a nightmare when you try to crack foreign markets on your own.”
His first trip abroad on the EMIA programme was to Tanzania in 2010. He’s also been to China, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Kenya and recently to South Korea.
“These opportunities have really provided us with access to markets, over and above funding, to become global players. Now we have clients in Turkey, India, Kenya and soon we’ll be launching in Nigeria,” he said.
While Khuzwayo says he would recommend other small businesses to take advatange of the EMIA’s offerings, he cautions that businesses have to be “export ready”, meaning that businesses must satisfy due diligence and have their products ready at a whim.
The EMIA programme
EMIA is an incentive programme facilitated by the Department of Trade and Industry that assists small enterprises with the costs of doing business in foreign markets as means of attracting foreign direct investment.
EMIA provides incentives of up to R45 000, including a return airfare and living expenses, to qualifying entrepreneurs to participate in foreign exhibitions.
“The DTI does research for you in terms of the economy of the country you’re visiting and the type of goods they are likely to buy,” he said.
Traveling in a delegation abroad with top CEOs and government ministers also comes with its own advantages.
“You lodge with these people in the same hotels and you get to share with them a lot of information. So those relationships continue even when you’re back here,” he said.
Despite this, there are challenges that could potentially hamper cash-strapped micro-small businesses from benefiting in EMIA.
“One of the problems is that you have to carry all expenses, including flight tickets, for yourself and DTI reimburses you when you come back. That’s a challenge for a lot of small businesses. But I think the DTI will be removing this requirement soon,” he said.
Khuzwayo also owns a hosting company that provides domain names, web hosting and cloud-based hosting solutions, HOSTRIVER. He has over ten years experience in computer engineering, and is also the author of the ebook, Cloud Computing for Africa.