South Africa has reaffirmed its commitment to building strong ties with Tunisia at a business forum hosted in Tunis on Monday.
SA Ambassador to Tunisia, Harold Hoyana, South Africa has made a concerted effort to promote trade and stimulate investment between the two countries.
The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) is leading a business delegation comprising 22 companies to the North African country. Monday's forum was attended by businesspeople from South Africa and Tunisia.
Hoyana said the primary goal of the forum was to encourage business-to-business interactions, which will eventually result in tangible outcomes for both countries' economies and to find measures to stimulate and increase volumes of direct trade.
"Through initiatives like this, there is certainly a demonstration from both countries that we need to develop mechanisms that will see us moving beyond the current low levels of trade and investment as depicted by 2015/16 trade figures, which put total trade at less than R500 million," said Hoyana.
Formal trade structures
South Africa and Tunisia enjoy cordial bilateral relations that have yielded a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) in numerous areas, within the ambit of the Joint Bilateral Commission (JBC).
Both countries are working towards establishing a Joint Trade and Investment Committee (JTIC), which will go a long way towards advancing bilateral trade between the two countries.
"The keenness of Tunisians to do business with South Africa was greatly demonstrated by the recent trade mission undertaken by Tunisian companies to the Eastern Cape, which yielded positive results.
"One of the main outcomes was a MoU between the East London IDZ (ELIDZ), Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) and The Industrial Development Zone (Coega IDZ) with their Tunisian counterpart, Zarzis Economic Activity Park. The negotiations of this agreement are ongoing and at an advanced stage," said Hoyana.
President of the Tunisian Investment Authority, Khalil Laabidi, said Tunisia is a diverse market-oriented economy with important agricultural, mining, tourism and manufacturing industries, offering many opportunities for investment.
"Our main focus has always been on encouraging exports, foreign direct investments (FDI) and tourism. I want to encourage more collaborative efforts of this nature from both countries," said Laabidi.
South Africa and Tunisia already enjoy cooperation in the fields of health, social development, science and technology, culture and sports, and this cooperation has significantly strengthened over the years.
At the conclusion of the first leg of the mission, the delegation will move to Algeria for the second leg of the mission, which will end on Thursday.
The mission will serve to promote South African products and service offerings, while creating partnerships between the business communities of the respective countries.