SA, Tunisia forge closer ties

18 October 2004

President Thabo Mbeki wrapped up a two-day visit to Tunisia last week with the signing of three cooperation agreements on jobs, culture and health.

The signing of the agreements was witnessed by Mbeki and Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The agreements include a memorandum of understanding on employment, on cultural co-operation between 2004 and 2007, and on co-operation in the field of public health and medical benefits.

Mbeki was accompanied by a high-level delegation of politicians and businessmen, and three separate agreements were signed during a meeting between representatives of employers’ organisations and the chambers of commerce of the two countries.

These seek to boost trade by giving the private sector a bigger role, including the possibility of establishing a direct air link between the two countries.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the two presidents also discussed details of a technical project to recruit South African medical and paramedical staff to Tunisia, and a joint venture in the pharmaceutical industry.

During a binational commission in July, the two countries agreed to abolish visa requirements for the holders of official passports. They also agreed to cooperate in the field of sport, and signed an agreement on technical cooperation between the Tunisia’s Institute of Normalisation and Industrial Property of Tunisia and the South African Bureau of Standards.

According to the department, relations between the two countries have steadily progressed since 1993, and a number of important commercial exchanges have taken place since the first binational commission in 1996.

Tunisian industrial group Poulina has confirmed its intention to invest in the South African tourism sector, while South African furniture and household retailer Profurn is in the process of acquiring equity in Tunisian firm Batam.

“Benefiting from the geographic location of Tunisia and its excellent infrastructure, Profurn is using Tunisia as a base for penetrating the increasingly lucrative North African market”, the department said.

“Subsequently, the two companies have established a presence in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, with plans to eventually expand to Algeria and Libya.”

Source: Department of Foreign Affairs