In September, the South African Chamber of Commerce in the USA (SACCUSA) is celebrating its second birthday. In humans this is the age when a child will start to kick a ball and slowly run. SACCUSA has exceeded expectations and is running at a fast pace while playing ball in the big league.
resident of SACCUSA, Neil Diamond, said while they’ve managed to grow their support and following to more than 8 500 participants on social media, it is their involvement and expansion into the American business arena, which should be celebrated. SACCUSA has managed to build strong relationships with the SA Embassy in Washington DC, as well as with the Consul General in New York, LA and various foreign ambassadors in order to assist SA businesses iron out challenges and bring new opportunities to the table.
“The DC Passport exhibition which was held at the embassy in Washington DC, offered chamber member SA Emporium the exposure and opportunity to exhibit South African consumer goods and reach a wider target market. We had a special wine event at the embassy too where South African wines were promoted and introduced into the market. These types of events offer valuable opportunities created by the chamber for distributors of SA products to showcase their goods,” Neil explained.
Through SACCUSA’s Washington DC chapter, a far stronger bond with the SA World Bank group has been forged and added 100 members to its reach.
“We are excited about our current project to further our relationship with the New York Business Council, of which SACCUSA is now also a member. We have many South Africans working on Wall Street and with whom we have met. There is a will to assist SA businesses and to support investment opportunities in a variety of sectors,” Neil said.
The chamber has supported various SAFFA social events during the past year which included five Women’s Day events across America, Freedom Day events, the sokkie in April and the Kentucky potjie festival.
The challenges in terms of visas overall, and H2A Visas specifically, was a major focus of SACCUSA during the past few months, explained Neil: “We met with the US Consulate, John Gimble, in South Africa to address the delay’s during the application process.
Currently visa applicants must wait months to get appointments. The US Consulate Team implemented a plan of action to avail more slots for South Africans and we have received feedback that the waiting period had indeed lessened.
“In terms of the H2A visas for agricultural workers, we organised a meeting with H2A recruiters and agents to inform them how to speed up visa applications by following the right processes and making sure applicants present the right documentation. There have been a few incidents where H2A workers have been found guilty of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and there is no quick fix for it. We urge agents to inform the young men that DUIs are treated with harsh penalties in America and if found guilty, greatly reduce their chances to return to the USA.”
SACCUSA is currently working on a guide for H2A applicants in which all the dos and don’ts are addressed. During the past few months, the chamber offered further assistance to families who had to go through the pain of losing a H2A family member in America while being in SA.
They are in the process of establishing a helpline for South Africans who struggle with the emotional challenges when moving for agricultural work to the USA. “We do our best to speed up processes for them to get their loved ones home to say their final goodbyes.”
Forging relationships with foreign diplomats in the USA is part of the agenda and in recent months outreach events have taken place with the Mexican, Belgium, Nigerian and German diplomats.
We are also super proud of chamber members who have excelled in their various industries. Fumana International had the opportunity to showcase SA wines at the Emmy’s, and members Jacques Bronkhorst and Barry Gazzard have received awards in their fields.
“Our newsletter, in conjunction with Saffa Mag, offers members the opportunity to stay on top of what is happening.”
On the tourism front SACCUSA held its first conference with Mpumalanga province a few months ago where SA tourism establishments were able to showcase what they can offer the USA market. Similar information sessions are now planned for the Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, and Gauteng.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa visits the USA mid-September, a business round table is planned in conjunction with Brand SA to inform the President of opportunities and challenges.
Ramaphosa will attend the United Nations General Assembly, and meet with President Joe Biden, and this has presented a golden opportunity to add talks to the agenda.