HISTORY OF THE ITALIAN - SOUTH AFRICAN CHAMBER
2014 marks a very important year for the Italian Chamber of Commerce, as the Chamber celebrates 30 years of existence.
At the outset, the Chamber was more of a meeting place for CEO’s of Italian companies to discuss how to face the changing reality of South Africa and has since, with a rich history of challenges and triumphs, gone through many changes and improvements.
The first elected chairman was Paolo Tosi, CEO of Olivetti Africa.The first steps towards establishing the “Made In Italy” brand in South Africa was at an exhibition held at the Rand Easter Show in 1983. A pavilion was hired to put up a show of Italian products open to exhibitors from Italy and to local Italian importers or manufacturers. A sponsor for the opening day was found in the successful Italian businessman, Marino Chiavelli.
Despite some initial successes, the early years were difficult in the context of a very challenging and unpredictable economic and political landscape in South Africa. The first turning point was reached in the latter part of 1986 when Silverio Boccetti, CEO of Telsaf-Telettra was elected Chairman with a mandate to pursue a new philosophy and add a different edge to the Chamber. This new approach was to inspire future activities and was to give the Chamber a very high profile through a series of events involving important guest speakers, so that the public perception of the Chamber benefitted by reflection.
After several years of steady progress, the second most important turning point, was represented by two completely unrelated events: the recruitment of a new Secretary General and the election of a new Chairman. The new Secretary General was Giancarlo Barsotti, retired CEO of Fiat South Africa and co-founder of security company Sandton Sentry. Soon after, the General Assembly voted Andrea Bollo to be the new Chairman. He was then re-elected for the next ten years which is a true testimony of his role in re-launching the institution and in setting the stage for the growth and recognition of the Chamber as the “bridge” of commercial trade between both countries.
From 2000 to 2004 Aldo Castellari was elected chairman and was succeeded in 2004 by Giovanni Ravazzotti, founder of Italtile. His vision, energy and foresight saw the Chamber go from strength to strength. In 2007 a new Secretary General, Mariagrazia Biancospino, was appointed. From 2008 to 2010 Nicolina Di Santolo was appointed Chairperson, so becoming the first woman leading the Italian Chamber of Trade and Industries in its 27-year-old history. In 2010 Di Santo was succeeded by Andrea Moz who was elected Chairman. He guided the Chamber through a time of positive change where trade missions from Italy were becoming popular and collaboration between both countries was increasing due to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Mr. Moz was succeeded by Antonio Cimato of Efficient Engineering. Cimato brought forward successful strategies of the previous years, contributing to the expansion of services offered by the Chamber and saw the chamber boast an increase of its members to 300. Trade missions in South Africa, networking, event organisation, servicing it’s members, facilitating the visits of South African delegates to Italy and market research are just a few of the services which Cimato as chairperson and the staff at the Chamber are focusing on.
CHAIRPERSONS OF THE CHAMBER
1982 – 1985: Paolo Tosi - Olivetti Africa
1985 – 1986: Luciano Alberti - Agip Lubricants
1986 – 1989: Silverio Boccetti - Telsaf – Telettra
1989 – 2000: Andrea Bollo - Wanda Bollo Estates
2000 – 2004: Aldo Castellari - Italmarketing
2004 – 2008: Gianni Ravazzotti – ItaltileLtdCeramicIndustries
2008 – 2010: Nicolina Di Santolo - Hi– Tek Ceramics (Pty) Ltd
2010 - 2013: Andrea Moz - Auto Industrial Group
2013 - Present: Antonio Cimato – Efficient Engineering