Pretoria — South Africa says its close economic relationship with Uganda is set to be strengthened following the first Joint Commission of Cooperation (JCC) meeting in Pretoria on Friday.
"We have agreed on the need for our two countries to meet regularly in order to maintain momentum in the implementation of decisions agreed upon in the JCC," International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters.
She signed several agreements of cooperation with Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa.
Agreements ranged from cooperation in the fields of water and environmental resources, defence, tourism and higher education.
"We also reiterated our commitment to improving and strengthening our economic relations by enhancing cooperation between the business communities of the two countries as well as facilitating further trade and investment," Nkoana-Mashabane said.
Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy in Uganda, employing over 80% of the work force. Coffee accounts for the bulk of the country's export revenues. It has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, small deposits of copper, gold, and other minerals, and recently discovered oil. Oil revenues and taxes will become a larger source of government funding as oil comes on line in the next few years.
Kutesa said he was satisfied with cooperation between South Africa and Uganda, particularly in the areas of energy, agriculture, deference and security.
"We don't take this cooperation lightly, South Africa is a very strategic partner...our relationship is based on mutual partnership and shared goals," he said.
Opportunities were available for both countries to explore in different sectors of economy.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula said it was not the first time the two countries signed an agreement in different areas of defence.
These included exchanges of experience in peace keeping initiatives.
The meeting also discussed peace, security and stability on the continent with particular focus on current conflicts in Sudan, Somalia and the eastern DRC. Instability in southern Sudan is reportedly a risk for the Ugandan economy because Uganda's main export partner is Sudan.
Meanwhile, Nkoana-Mashabane also announced that South Africa has been elected to serve in the United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from January 2013.
ECOSOC is a UN body facilitating international cooperation on standards-making and problem-solving in economic and social issues. South Africa last served in the structure in 2006.