Exporting to Sub-Saharan Africa – 5 minutes with David Perry

Zoe Bagnall
Content and PR Executive | Business West
15th January 2021

We asked David Perry, Managing Director of Perry of Oakley, about his experience in exporting to Sub-Saharan Africa and what tips he can offer to businesses looking to follow in its footsteps. Perry of Oakley is also a Department for International Trade (DIT) South West Export Champion - encouraging other businesses in the region to get exporting

Hello David. Can you tell us a little about your company?

We design and manufacture grain dryers, grain handling storage and cleaning equipment. The company was established in 1947 and we employ 77 members of staff. The business started exporting in 2012 and now exports to 17 markets, accounting for 30% to 50% of our turnover. Uganda, Russia, and New Zealand are among our top markets. 

Why did Perry of Oakley target Sub-Saharan Africa?

Part of our strategy over the last fifteen years has centred around not being tied to just one country. We wanted to spread ourselves across territories and sectors to reduce risk and grow in a more sustainable way. We began focusing on Sub Saharan Africa when a flyer came through from DIT about an opportunity to attend a supported exhibition in Zambia called Zambia Agritech. Shortly after, we attended another exhibition, Nampo, in South Africa, which was also in a UK pavilion subsidised by the DIT. We then started to pick up leads and over the last few years we have really begun to understand the market. In the last 18 months, we have secured orders after building our presence there with support from DIT. We have now set up a separate business in Johannesburg called Perry Africa and one in Kampala, Uganda, called Perry East Africa.

Did you encounter any barriers and how did you overcome these?

We were lucky whilst exporting to not to face any significant obstacles, however the usual paperwork routine can be quite slow. For example, in South Africa we couldn’t leave Johannesburg in our company vehicle for several months because we didn’t have the correct paperwork and it took about a day to resolve this. It’s important to be prepared on this front, so if you’re going to a territory you need to find someone to work with who is established out there to assist with exporting and importing. 

How did DIT support you? 

The most significant way DIT supported us was through providing funding to attend shows which allowed us to meet and network with business partners and distributors. At one of the shows we got to know a gentleman who had grown up in South Africa and wanted to go back, and this led to us working with him in the country to set up our business there. 

We have also recently connected with a DIT representative in Johannesburg. We want to increase our profile so we have been working with them to find out what we can do to amplify our presence. With COVID, it’s been more challenging to build relationships with potential buyers, but DIT has guided us through the ways in which we can do this effectively online. 

What does the future hold for Perry of Oakley?

Despite COVID, we have had a good year and next year its looking positive. I think this is due to our strategy of expanding into several markets and sectors. The aim is to consolidate our presence in these markets and sectors and continue our growth in the UK and export territories. 

Can you offer any tips to businesses looking to export their goods/services to the region?

You need to get out to the market you are targeting, possibly with a DIT sponsored exhibition and then try and establish yourself with a known dealer out there. Preparation is also important. For example, we had to be prepared to send plenty of spare parts and ensure we had engineering support to facilitate this. 

Taking risks and finding creative ways to get yourself known is also a great way to get your name out there. When I went to Zambia for the first time, I hired a taxi and asked them to stop everywhere where there were grain elevators or silos and knocked on all the doors. 

I would export anywhere now within reason. A few years back we didn’t consider it, but with DIT’s support we’ve grown the company bigger than we could have done without trading overseas. It’s all about taking that first step. 

Get in touch

The Department for International Trade currently has an Export Trade Development programme running for businesses looking to grow and boost their sales by trading overseas. Our experienced team of business advisers will help you to develop an export strategy and carry out market research. 

For further information on DIT’s exporting support and international opportunities, visit www.great.gov.uk

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