24 June 2014
Canadian trade finance agency Export Development Canada will open its first African office in Johannesburg in 2015, Canada’s minister of international trade, Ed Fast, announced on Monday.
Fast, who is on a 10-day tour of Burkina Faso, Madagascar, South Africa and Tanzania, was addressing a media briefing in Johannesburg when he made the announcement.
Fast said Canada had chosen Johannesburg as the location for its first Export Development Canada (ECD) office because of the city’s economic position as the financial gateway to southern Africa.
He said the ECD, through its Johannesburg-based team, would focus on connecting more Canadian businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to the growing supply chains within intra-African trade.
“South Africa is Canada’s most important commercial and political partner in Africa and is the only country in Africa – and one of only 20 around the world – to be identified by our government’s recent Global Markets Action Plan as an ’emerging market with broad Canadian interests’,” Fast said.
“When most Canadian businesses look to South Africa, they see a country so far away they think it’s impossible to trade with it. The EDC will change that,” Fast said, adding that on-the-ground support in southern Africa would help Canadian SMEs to boost their exports and create jobs and opportunities at home.
Fast also said the South Africa-Canada Chamber of Commerce would be revitalised to provide a forum for Canadian companies and investors in the country.
President Jacob Zuma, during the state visit of Canadian Governor-General David Johnston in May last year, said South Africa offered good investment prospects for Canadian companies, adding that they should take advantage of infrastructure projects on the continent, as well as get more involved in Africa’s mining sector.
Johnston said the success of the Canadian-designed Gautrain demonstrated both the quality of South African infrastructure and the strength and expertise of Canadian technology.
There were several areas in which South Africa and Canada could co-operate, including mining, infrastructure, agriculture and education, he said, adding that the success of Africa was critical to the success of the world.
“This remarkable experiment of bringing diversity together and reinforcing democracy that we have seen in South Africa from last 19 years is inspiring all of us … and we will be with you all the way as you bring the African continent together to extend those values and achievements that you have already demonstrated so well here,” he said.