Corks have been popping in the ZA wine industry with the news that one of this country’s most respected businessmen – ex FNB CEO Michael Jordaan is now chairman of Wines of South Africa, or WOSA. It is an industry with many challenges, ranging from fierce foreign competition to less than helpful government regulation. He is a wine farmer himself, and is well equipped to take on this task.
ZA Confidential caught up with Michael to get his perspective on his new challenge:
ZAC: How much work do you think is needed to get the industry to band together and to work together?
MJ: My sense is that the industry has matured over time from one where we saw everyone else as a competitor to one where all producers/ winemakers know that we can all benefit from export growth. We realise we do not compete against each other abroad but against a host of new world nations such as Australia, Chile and the USA. The debate is more on how best to position SA as a wine producing nation.
ZAC: What do you see as the biggest threats/challenges?
MJ: The challenge is how to lift the brand of SA in general and specifically our wine producing heritage, diversity and quality.
ZAC: AT FNB you drove a lot of innovation. Is there also room for more of this in the wine industry?
MJ: I hope so – certainly there is scope for using social media much more given how inherently social wine enjoyment is.
ZAC: The Treasury recently launched a discussion document on wine taxes, looking at health issues. Are you not worried that the industry is a soft target, and is perceived as bad, with a negative image?
MJ: Scientific opinion is that responsible wine usage (a glass a day) is actually healthy. Nevertheless taxes on alcohol is a reality in nearly all countries. Jokes about “sin taxes” aside, the Treasury proposals recognise that the industry is an important job creator and export earner.
ZAC: Is enough being done to promote wine tourism, given the way in which so many estates now offer so more than just tastings?
MJ: Generally tourism in SA still has major growth potential. Our wine estates are amongst the most beautiful in the world and can certainly be used much more to help both the tourism industry and subsequent wine exports.
ZAC: Since leaving FNB you have launched a venture capital operation, you chair Mxit and you are a non-executive director at the JSE Ltd. You also lecture. And now this wine post. Are you not over-stretching yourself?
MJ: My board positions are ideal for me in that I can contribute strategically but do not have operational responsibilities. Since leaving FNB I have been able to structure my life to spend more time with my family and friends as well as look after my health. Chairing WOSA is about giving back to SA and an industry that I feel passionate about.
We have long held Michael in high esteem, and are convinced that his appointment is a good move.
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