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Tim Harcourt is a professional economist specialising in international trade and labour economic issues in the Asia Pacific region and in the emerging economies. Tim's passion is Australia's engagement with the global economy and the challenges and opportunities it offers business and the Australian community as a whole.

Tim has broad experience in public policy and in communicating international economic issues widely in the community. He has held senior roles in both the public sector and private sector in Australia and internationally and in the community and education sectors. In Australia he has worked for the Reserve Bank of Australia, Fair Work Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU and the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade).


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Beyond Our ShoresEssays on Australia and the Global Economy By Tim Harcourt, Chief Economist, Australian Trade Commission
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Freo Nelson Mandela – the Dockers help Africa rebuild.

Posted by on September 25th, 2013 · Publications

Freo Nelson Mandela – the Dockers help Africa rebuild.


Tim Harcourt*


The Fremantle Dockers after years of battling in the AFL have finally made their first Grand Final. After playing an extraordinary high pressure style of football they got over the reigning 2012 premiers the Sydney Swans and now have the right to play hot favourite Hawthorn. Coach Ross Lyon has taught Freo how to play a tough blue collar brand of high pressure football which together with some amazing skill from the likes of Pavlich, Boundy, Fyfe and has moulded the Dockers into a lethal combination. The late and great Freo fanatic and gifted journalist Matt Price would be smiling in heaven right now.

However, there’s another side of the Fremantle Dockers that’s not so well known. Fremantle has strong business and development ties to Nelson Mandela’s South Africa. I found this out quite by accident at the mining conference Mining Indaba in South Africa, which is the show piece of mining exploration, equipment and technology in Africa.

Whilst I was at Mining Indaba I met an unusual participant. He was a sports executive rather than a mining magnate and he was meeting the most important people in the resources sector in both Australia and Africa at the specially appointed ‘Australia lounge’ at the event. He was pretty happy as he has just managed to raise $250,000 in sponsorship for his club from a number of South African companies, including the major South African partner, Nkwe Platinum. His name was Darren Beazley he’s a former dot com executive working at the time as General Manager of Strategic Partnerships for the Fremantle Dockers Football Club after stints with the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) in Perth and the AFL in Tasmania. He was also a pretty handy footballer himself with Swan Districts in the WA state competition and is a third cousin of Kim Beazley. Whilst the Beazley’s are known as a famous Western Australian political dynasty there are sporting ties as well. Kim Beazley’s mother Betty was an athletics coach who trained the famous Western Australian runner and Olympic medallist Shirley Strickland.

So why was a Fremantle Docker all that way across the Indian Ocean in South Africa? According to Darren Beazley it was partly about player development and partly about commercial sponsorship. In terms of sponsorship the AFL clubs know they have a limited pool of dollars to attract in Australia, even in mineral-rich WA, and therefore they have to look for new frontiers. As Beazley puts it: “The sponsorship pie is only so big, so we’ve got to find another pie. That’s why we are involved with NKWE and looking to get involved further in the South African resources sector.”

On the field too, South Africa is also proving to be a new frontier for AFL player talent. The game is expanding rapidly in North West of Pretoria which serves as the Dockers’ development zone. South Africa is considered to be a promising area for the AFL with regular visits from the AFL as well as GWS Giants coach Kevin Sheedy and indigenous icon of the game Michael Long, all of whom have  regularly visited South Africa.

The AFL has also run a successful Auskick programme in South Africa (know as footyWILD) that has helped health and development in the townships (reducing smoking rates). Australian entrepreneur Andrew Douglas, who runs the Cape Town based-Salamander group has helped drive the footyWILD programme along with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes for corporates in South Africa, Australia and India. He sees Africa as “full of untapped opportunities, with plenty of growth for social entrepreneurs as well as traditional resource companies.

Indeed, at the Cape Town conference, Mining Indaba a 10,000 plus strong gathering of global mining interests – it does feel like an extension of extension of WA’s mining interests and there are plenty of Perth residents at the conference consisting of former South Africans and the home grown variety. The Australian delegation at Mining Indaba seems to read like a who’s who of Perth and on the other of side of the Indian Ocean, Perth is a mini-Johannesburg as well, with lots of South Africans who have settled in the West.

There were fears that after the heady days of the anti-apartheid struggle, that Australia would forget South Africa. Even Tansey Coetzee, a former Miss South Africa, said her main aim was to make sure the world “didn’t forget South Africa now that apartheid is a distant memory.” However, it looks like that there’s no danger in that occurring  as Australia’s two-way trade with South Africa was worth over $2.4 billion last year with 2320 Australian companies exporting to South Africa in 2011-12. Whilst the big miners provide the lion’s share , there are plenty of Australian services exporters in Africa who do a lot on the training and technology side. Companies like Mincom, Micromine and Ghekko were big players at Indaba and Australia’s expertise in technology, training and logistics spills over to a number of sectors. South African agriculture, manufacturing and education (particularly the TAFE sector) industries to are also expected be a big attracters of Australian technology, investment and know-how in years to come.

There was also a big Australian presence in Pretoria too at Centurion Park as the Fremantle Dockers played Carlton as part of Mining Indaba.


Whilst there weren’t quite cries of “Freo Nelson Mandela” at the game, the Dockers did win and clearly made a bit of progress on both the development and on the commercial side in the Rainbow nation.

Whilst thinking of Africa and development with think of big concerts run by Bono and Bob Geldof.

But maybe something a little bit more low key but equally hard working and effective – like what the Fremantle Dockers are doing in South Africa – could be the way to go.

Whether helping Africa and beating Hawthorn – the Fremantle Dockers now have plenty to do.

*Tim Harcourt is the J.W.Nevile Fellow in Economics at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and author of The Airport Economist www.theairporteconomist.com














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