UPDATE: Tensions between USA and SA continue to rise over AGOA trade deal
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In the most recent spat between US senators and the South African poultry industry, pressure has mounted on both sides to reach an agreement over poultry tariffs with potentially thousands of jobs hanging in the balance.
Since its inception in 2000, South Africa has been able to export many goods tariff-free to the American market whilst retaining the right to protect much of its home industries.
Tensions have arisen over how these duties affect competitiveness between the two nations. A block of US senators has consistently highlighted that poultry imports have been effectively blocked by South African tariffs; senior African Union trade officials have noted the dominance of raw materials and oil exported to the US.
13 US senators have written to the South African Minister for Trade and Industry Rob Davies in a bid to secure the removal of the tariffs. Similar to past communications, the threat of exclusion from the trade deal has never been far away from the negotiations.
In a rebuttal of sorts, CEO of the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) Kevin Lovell said, “The application of these duties has never been challenged by the US in the courts or at the World Trade Organisation – the correct forum for this kind of remedy – speaks for itself.”
Opinion in support of the US has noted that, since South Africa is by far one of the most advanced and successful African beneficiaries of the deal, its position within AGOA is becoming untenable in the light of the stubbornness of its poultry industry.
Conversely, South Africa’s poultry industry cites cheap American imports as a threat to local jobs and industry. Indeed, Senegal claims to have lost up to three quarters of its poultry trade due to the ‘dumping’ effect from the EU market as part of a similarly conceived trade deal.
In this particular instance AGOA is becoming a Catch 22 situation for South Africa: consumers will benefits from cheap imports but this will cost the country an as yet unknown portion of its home poultry industry. This is exactly why negotiations are crucial for the mutual benefit of all the interests involved in the deal.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.