Pretoria — South Africa's business community should seize trade and investment opportunities in Benin while both countries should work harder to redress the skewed trade balance between the two countries, says Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe.
The deputy minister is in Benin on the first Outward Selling and Investment Mission that kicked off with a seminar on Monday.
"Our business community must seize the trade and investment opportunities available in Benin, which the two governments are facilitating through the necessary enabling framework.
"South Africa has identified opportunities for collaboration in agriculture and agro-processing, infrastructure (rail, road, Air and sea ports, and power generation) as well as Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) development and financing," said Thabethe as she delivered a keynote address at a trade and investment seminar in Cotonou.
Thabethe is leading a 15-member business delegation to Benin. Both governments of South Africa and Benin are in the process of creating good trade relations that will be conducive to both business people from both countries.
"Our countries signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Economic and Technical Cooperation in November 2011. The MoU is aimed at identifying specific areas that will further deepen our technical, trade and industrial cooperation arrangement. In order to ensure that the MoU is implemented, the two countries established the Joint Trade and Investment Committee (JTIC) in February 2012," she said.
Thabethe also challenged businesspeople from both countries to work hard in order to redress the trade balance between SA and Benin.
The trade balance is skewed in South Africa's favour whereby in 2011 bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to approximately R310 million.
"This comprised of imports from Benin of R10 million and exports to Benin of R297 million. South Africa mainly exported vegetable products such as fruit, nuts, peels of citrus fruit, melons and oil seed, grain and seed to Benin, whereas we imported residues, wastes of food industry and animal fodder from Benin," she said.
Madina Sephou, the Minister of Industry, Trade, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in Benin, also urged businesspeople from SA and Benin to take advantage of the conducive environment created by the two governments and form partnerships that will assist in boosting trade.