South African Delegation praise Cambridgeshire South Africa Research Partnership on official visit

May 3, 2024

South Africa has committed to help boost trade and research links with East Anglia after a visit to Cambridgeshire from its new Honorary Consul and the South African High Commissioner.

Leading entrepreneur Bassim Haidar, who has been appointed as the new Honorary Consul for South Africa, visited a Cambridgeshire institute that’s partnered with a South African university to research diseases after working together during the pandemic.

Mr Haidar and the South African High Commissioner His Excellency Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo went to the Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Genomic Surveillance Unit (GSU), who announced in January it had partnered with Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) to coordinate the genomic surveillance of infectious diseases globally.

The two institutions were instrumental in identifying and monitoring variants of COVID-19 as they emerged during the pandemic.

The new Honorary Consul and the High Commissioner were then given a tour of Jesus College by the Director of the Intellectual Forum Dr Julian Huppert and visited the University of Cambridge’s Cambridge Africa programme, which supports African researchers and promotes mutually beneficial collaborations and equitable partnerships between Africa and Cambridge.

Mr Haidar and the High Commissioner finished their visit to Cambridgeshire with a roundtable with local businesses held by at the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce.

African-born Mr Haidar is global business leader with companies across the fintech, technology, telecoms, logistics, energy, engineering and medical sectors, leading a multi-sector conglomerate with operations across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with annual revenues exceeding £1.3 billion. He founded Optasia, a leading vendor mobile financial and fintech services, currently serving over 650 million people in 30 countries.

Mr Haidar has extensive business interests in South Africa, founding agri-tech firm SafriCanna which exports to several countries worldwide.

He has also recently established a company in Cambridgeshire and intends to originate and strengthen strong trade links between the UK and South Africa.

A key focus in Mr Haidar’s new role as Honorary Consult is to facilitate the exchange of medical and scientific innovation from the UK for the benefit of South Africa, as well as introducing South African intellectual property and innovation to the UK. Another aim is to actively engage with regional educational institutions to initiate bi-lateral programmes focused on academic and cultural exchange.

According to the Government’s latest trade data, the Eastern region is the second largest importer of South African goods and the second largest exporter of goods to South Africa in the UK. In 2022, £207m of goods were exported from the region to South Africa and £1.1b of goods imported to the Eastern region from the country.

Mr Haidar said: “It was a great pleasure to start my new role with a visit to Cambridgeshire, a place I have chosen to start a new business myself.

“Collaboration and innovation are key for boosting international trade so it was

was fascinating to see how well that is going already with the partnership between the Sanger Institute and South Africa’s Stellenbosch University.

“It was also heartening to see the brilliant collaborative work of the Cambridge Africa programme supporting African researchers and to meet so many innovative local companies keen to trade with South Africa at the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce.

“In the UK, East Anglia is a real trading powerhouse with South Africa and I want to use my global business experience to make these trade links even stronger.”

John Sillitoe, Director of the Genomic Surveillance Unit (GSU) at the Wellcome Sanger Institute said: “We were honoured to welcome Mr Haidar and the South African High Commissioner to see the Genomic Surveillance Unit and find out about our partnership Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI).

“Whilst our institutes are thousands of miles apart, our aims and thinking are side-by-side. The partnership means we can share resources and expertise and use genomics to support the control of infectious diseases in the UK, in South Africa, and around the world.”

Dr. Ilona Karpanos, International Trade Advisor at the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce said: “The Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce were delighted to host a roundtable with the South African delegation. Fostering international collaboration is at the heart of what we do. Cambridgeshire is a hub of innovation and manufacturing which exports to every corner of the globe and we will continue to support the business community to enable both import and export.”

uth African High Commissioner His Excellency Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo said: “We’d like to thank everyone who made us feel so welcome during the visit. 2024 is a key year for South Africa as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of multi-racial democratic elections.

“The UK has always been a steadfast ally as we transformed to a true democracy and we hope the strong trade, educational and cultural links that bind us together become even stronger with Mr Haidar’s new appointment.”

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce