Libraries as a source of information
Information is a key resource for the budding exporter. There are many sources of information that you can turn to help you in your quest to break into the export market. The Internet is clearly one of the easiest and most accessible sources of information available to you. Even if you don’t have Internet yourself, you can visit an Internet Café in order to spend some time online. Another source of information is the South African trade representative stationed in a foreign country who you can call, fax or email and ask for the information you need. A further source of information is the public library system that keeps stocks of books and magazines on hand that might help you in your quest to learn more about foreign markets. Bear in mind, though, that public libraries are not likely to have specialised publications available; they are likely to be quite general in nature. Nevertheless, you should spend a few hours of your time browsing through the shelves of your public library to see if there is anything of interest to you. The time will be well spent.
What about university libraries?
Universities also maintain quite extensive libraries and many of these carry fairly specialised books, magazines and journals (and their offerings are likely to be more extensive than what your local public library has to offer). Consider visiting your nearest university library to see what they have available. University libraries may charge you a small ‘browsing’ fee to be able to use their library and if you want to take out a book, you may have to pay an additional fee to join up.
Click here to access a list of universities in South Africa.
Trade associations often have small libraries too
Local industry and sector associations often keep small libraries of books and magazines available related to their area of expertise (some of these may be copies that they have received from their counterpart associations overseas). Most associations will be willing to allow you to browse through the magazines they have available as long as you do not want to remove them from their offices (they are not libraries, after all).
Click here to search for a particular trade association
Then there is the Chamber network
Chambers of commerce and industry also maintain small libraries of trade and business-related information (magazines, journals, books, newspapers, etc.). Like with the trade associations, many of these are complimentary copies received from other Chambers in other parts of the world. While you may not be allowed to ‘loan’ the publications in question, an hour or two spent in your local Chamber’s offices may prove quite rewarding. There are also several bilateral chambers that exist in South Africa, such as the SA-Japan Bilateral Chamber, and these may have very specialised and relevant information/publications available that you can work through.
Click here to access a list of local chambers of commerce and industry and local bilateral chambers.
Finally, don’t forget the foreign missions in South Africa
Most foreign countries that have missions in South Africa also have libraries of information and publications on their respective home countries. These missions are generally not keen to promote South African exports to their country, but prefer to promote exports from their country to South Africa. For this reason, they are sometimes reluctant to help South African exporters beyond basic visa and consular services. Your best bet, therefore, is to tell the trade representative within the mission that you are interested in doing business with their country (including importing from their country) and that you consequently want to learn more about the business environment and industry developments in his/her country. Ask him or her whether he/she has a library available that you can browse through. They may well be willing to help you (although recent security issues have made access to missions more problematic).
Click here to access a list of foreign missions in South Africa.