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Wed, 24 Apr 2019

The fifth annual Condé Nast International (CNI) Luxury Conference kicked off in Cape Town yesterday, bringing some of the biggest names in global luxury to African soil – from Gucci, Pucci and Tiffany & Co., to Estée Lauder Companies, Salvatore Ferragamo and Naomi Campbell herself.

Emceed by Jo-Ann Strauss, this year the event sought to explore the promise and value of the African market for the global luxury and fashion industry, and the power of the continent as a creative, manufacturing and retail hub.

“Africa, the eyes of the planet gaze on the continent’s second largest continent, with more and more brands looking to establish their presence here,” said Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive, Condé Nast International, as he opened Day 1.

While much of the growth in luxury over the last twenty years has been driven by Asia, Newhouse said that Africa will play a key role in the growth of the industry in the years to come. The continent holds the world’s largest millennial consumer population and fastest-growing middle class, as well as one of the fastest growing high-net-worth individual populations.

Respected fashion journalist Suzy Menkes, editor of Vogue International, is the driving force behind the conference. Fittingly, she led the event proceedings, accompanied by her quick wit and signature coif.

Essence of African style

In her opening speech, Menkes shared that her inspiration for an Africa-focused Luxury Conference was sparked by “a hairdo”. In April 2017, she’d walked into the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris to view the Art Afrique collection. Here she saw photographs of the “extraordinary ways” that women in Nigeria have dressed their hair for centuries.

“Here was an art form created with extensions and braids on the heads of women, photographed from the back and sides. From nothing but the imagination, the creative minds of photographer JD ‘Okhai Ojeikere and his subjects reimagined beauty.”

Menkes stressed that the intention of the Cape Town event is not to be a survey of fashion on the African continent, nor to be limited to Africa’s local success stories, of which there are many. “Rather, we’re going to look at the essence of style on this continent and what it can offer the rest of the world in the physicality of material or handwork,” she said.

“It is time that the inspiration, the vision and the handwork across the African continent are supported and celebrated for its contribution to the world’s luxury industry.”

Handwork back in fashion

Menkes said that much of what is happening is in response to a sobering reality. With Chinese production of cheap clothing decimating local businesses, here and around the world, Africa needs to find another way to develop its workshops and factories into a sustainable industry.

Hundreds of years since the invention of machines took over the creation of clothes, handwork is now back in fashion. “Intricate work with wool, cotton and leather all result in beautiful garments and objects with that most important thing – the human touch,” said Menkes.

In a related point, she touched on how handcrafted fashion is playing [...]

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Thu, 18 Apr 2019

A-Safe’s industrial safety barriers often take a big hit, but the company has no such worries.

Exports have been a major part of A-Safe’s success over the past six years. Averaging 40% year-on-year growth has brought the company to £54m turnover, with the proportion of export earnings rising from just over 50% to now approaching 90%.

With UK manufacturing urgently needing to boost trade, what can we learn from A-Safe’s relentless progress?

Worldwide demand

It helps that there is a global need for A-Safe’s high-quality products in factories, warehouses, airports, carparks – anywhere that assets and people need to be separated and protected from industrial vehicles.

By 2014, A-Safe, a small family firm run by Luke and James Smith had already invented the world’s first industrial-strength polymer barrier (in 2001) and built a reputation with blue-chip clients like Unilever, Coca Cola and Jaguar Land Rover.

What these companies have in common is their global reach. And that’s the basis for A-Safe’s business model – they follow their customers.

The Smith brothers’ first big customer was Kimberly-Clark’s operation in Michigan. The site manager was so impressed with A-Safe’s safety solution and the savings in asset damage that he recommended them to the HQ of Kimberly-Clark in Texas. And the rest is history.

A-Safe now supplies 20 of the healthcare giant’s US facilities and 40 globally. It has since followed other customers from the UK into their international bases, establishing their own subsidiary offices in countries where it enabled them to better meet customer needs.

This model allowed them to branch out into markets they had previously found difficult to penetrate.

“At first we tried working with UK Trade and Investment,” says James, “but we found their knowledge to be broad, rather than the more localised market specialisation we needed. It was more effective for us to take control ourselves”.

Think global, act local

Even with a loyal customer base, breaking into new markets in unfamiliar countries could be fraught with risks and costs. How did A-Safe, still a relatively small UK company, manage these transitions?

James has a straightforward answer: “Do it yourself”. They tried appointing local sales agents, but quickly learned that A-Safe’s reputation for quality and service is best represented by A-Safe people.

Local agents became local employees, and training in the A-Safe way and support from HQ has become a key part of their experience. A-Safe still works with local partners, but is careful to prioritise the countries the company wants to work in.

“We’d like to personally support customers wherever they are in the world, but we have to prioritise,” says Sharon. “Our partners need to be as energetic as we are in living the A-Safe brand and really understanding our customers”.

Like many UK companies, A-Safe has benefitted from favourable exchange rates in the past couple of years. Their continuing success over six years shows they have a much deeper foundation. Building trust in people and understanding of markets have been essential factors in creating a robust export business.

It is difficult to size the market for safety barriers, but James and Luke [...]

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Mon, 01 Apr 2019
Transnet launches continent’s first dredging school


The Transnet Maritime School of Excellence (MSoE) has launched the continent’s first dredging school to develop and enhance the competences of new and already employed dredging personnel.

The Dredging School aims to train not only pipe operators, but project engineers, harbour masters, port engineers and technical engineers to achieve operational dredging competences in the field of process and project approach.


Its mission is to deliver a formal Dredging Education Course of moderate duration, accredited by government.

“The school will first upskill Transnet National PortsAuthority’s (TNPA’s) own dredging personnel. In future, the vision is to use this formal education route to train dredging personnel from other companies in South Africa and other African countries and in so doing, to become the leading dredging education institute south of the Sahara,” says Transnet chief human resources officer Nonkululeko Sishi

Based at the Transnet MSoE, the school is equipped with a high-tech trailing suction hopper dredging simulator to help train dredging personnel in this highly specialised field.

Sishi adds that, “the effect of training is enormous as it improves the effectiveness of the equipment being operated, providing a significant return on investment”.

The Dredging School is a result of the supplier development plan related to the acquisition of the new 5 500 m3 trailing suction hopper dredger, Ilembe, for TNPA.

The education programme comprises three different routes: Route 1 for new intakes, Route 2 for existing operators and Route 3 for project engineers and maritime crew.

Route 1: New Intake

This six-month programme consists of basic modules in mathematics, physical sciences and maritime English, and dredging-specific related modules, for example, dredging in general, hopper design and components, hydraulic processes, project approach, operational hopper simulator and survey.

A further three months is spent on internship aboard a dredger or within a dredging organisation.

Route 2: Existing Operators (Dredge Operator Competency System – DOCS)

Hopper DOCS is a pipe operator competence system for monitoring the operational competences of existing pipeoperators and dredge masters. It consists of three assessments, a logbook and a handbook for DOCS officers (for those who perform the assessments).

For the organisation and the operational personnel, the logbook is the central document. Used during the formal educational route for new and existing personnel and during employment, it monitors the progress made by each individual pipe operator or dredge master over a period of years.

The logbook is designed to support the structured on-the-job training received by new employees entering the company or existing personnel receiving training at the dredging school, who receive on-the-job training for an extensive period.

While the execution of the on-the-job training is the responsibility of the company, a special department at the MSoE helps manage this aspect, which is done with the cooperation of TNPA Dredging Services, TNPA, MSoE and the Training Institute for Dredging.

Before Hopper DOCS is used, a baseline assessment will be carried out. Every individual pipe operator in a group will be assessed, and individual and group scores will be recorded. Based on these scores, competence gaps and training goals will be set for a specific group of operators so special attention can be given during the simulator training at the dredging school and during the subsequent on-the-job training. This will also be used to monitor the progress of both the individual operators and the group.

Route 3: Alternative Route for Project Engineers and Maritime Crew

Project engineers and maritime crew will be trained on the operational aspects of hopper dredging. During periods when the simulator is not used for the educational route, there will be opportunities to train other functions in pipe operations. A special [...]

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