PRETORIA – Belarus is keen to advance its bilateral economic ties with South Africa and extend cooperation in the industrial and technological fields.
Speaking at the South Africa-Belarus Business Forum hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) in Tshwane on Friday, Belarusian Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Andrei Dapkiunas said his country is working to upgrade its bilateral economic ties with South Africa.
This as the Deputy Minister was leading a business delegation on a three-day visit to South Africa. The visit formed part of the celebrations of 25 years of diplomatic ties between South Africa and Belarus.
“It is 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Now it is high time that we take a fresh look at our bilateral relations. In this 25-year period we have accumulated sufficient experience and knowledge that we can utilise to clearly identify areas of cooperation which will take our political and economic relations to the next level.
“These include agriculture, infrastructure development, education, and Information and Communication Technology. From the Belarusian side we would like to move on to a new higher level of cooperation based on industrial and technological ties,” said Deputy Minister Dapkiunas.
Trade between the European country and Africa stood at $750 million last year.
“Unfortunately and regrettably, only $17 million of this was trade between South Africa and Belarus. Given the size, prominence and importance of South Africa both in Africa and global affairs, this figure just shows that there is a lot of unused potential that can be utilised to the benefit of both countries. We have to explore all existing avenues of cooperation,” he said.
The Belarusian delegation’s visit included attending the fourth Session of the South Africa-Belarus Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) which took place in Tshwane on Thursday.
Deputy Minister Dapkiunas said the Belarusian fertilisers, heavy duty dump trucks and agricultural machinery have won a strong and stable position in the South African market and other countries of the continent.
The establishment of new production facilities by Belarusian companies in South Africa will help his country to not only gain a foothold in South Africa but also create new jobs for the country.
“Belarus is a medium-size European country, but her economic, technological and intellectual potential surpasses the expectations defined by the size of the country. We are one of the world leaders in the manufacturing of heavy dump trucks, cargo trucks, tractors and other agricultural machinery, roadbuilding machinery, food and pharmaceutical products,” he said.
Speaking at the conclusion of the ITEC a day earlier, Deputy Minister of Trade and Insutry Bulelani Magwanishe said both countries need to work on ways to increase trade with one another.
“We are collectively obliged to recommend solutions to the low levels of trade between South Africa and Belarus, as well as Africa in its entirety. We should create platforms for diversified exports, where a greater portion of beneficiated products are concerned,” said the Deputy Minister on Thursday.
The ITEC was established through the bilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement that was signed between South Africa and Belarus in 2000.
The primary objective of ITEC is to strengthen and develop trade and economic cooperation between South Africa and the European country.