4 October 2005
The Trade and Industry Chamber of South Africa and the Russian Chamber of Commerce have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see the two countries establishing a business council to boost trade relations.
The agreement was signed in Moscow on Monday ahead of a three-day meeting of the fifth session of the Inter-governmental Committee on Trade and Economic Co-operation (ITEC) between South Africa and the Russian Federation.
Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Russian Minister of Natural Resources Yuri Petrovich Trutnev are co-chairing the ITEC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Dlamini-Zuma leads a South African government delegation that includes senior Cabinet ministers. A business delegation comprising representatives from over 30 South African companies is taking part in a business summit coinciding with the ITEC meeting.
Potential for growth
Speaking at the signing ceremony at the Russian Chamber of Commerce building on Monday, Russian Natural Resources Department Deputy Minister Valentin Stepankov said a Russian company had recently invested over US$1-billion in South Africa, and he hoped the trade would grow.
Stepankov was referring to the Kalahari Manganese Project, launched in February 2005, in which Russian mining company Renova is partnering with South African firm Setshaba Holdings for exploration, mining and processing of manganese ore in the Kalahari Basin.
“Our task is to increase the volume of co-operation,” Stepankov said. “Our economic relations have vast potential to increase. In order to expand, we need to increase the number of contracts between our countries.”
South African Minerals and Energy Director-General Sandile Nogxina said that while the two countries had conducted fruitful business in the past, this had been done in an unstructured manner.
Nogxina said a number of South African companies, such as brewer SABMiller, diamond producer De Beers and Mvela Holdings, were already operating in Russia. However, he urged businesses from both countries to seize the opportunities provided by the ITEC.
“The Russian companies operating in our country have been taking full advantage of changes meant to attract more direct investment, especially in mining, trade and industry and in the agricultural sector,” Nogxina said.
A member of a South African business delegation accompanying the government delegation on the trip, former ambassador to Russia Gerrit Olivier, said both countries were at the stage of “opening doors to each other”.
“South Africa regards Russia as being far away,” Olivier said. “One thing that could be done is to remove visa restrictions,” he said, adding that both countries needed direct flights to avoid the over eight-hour wait for reconnecting flights in Dubai.
South Africa’s ambassador to Eastern Europe, Delarey Van Tonder, said trade relations between the two countries remained essentially underdeveloped due to Russia’s profound economic transformation.
“South Africa’s multi-nationals remain active in Moscow with substantive investment in the minerals, mining, banking, alcohol beverage and hospitality sectors,” Van Tonder said.
He added that since the ITEC’s inception in 1999 – during the official visit of former President Nelson Mandela to Moscow – four sessions had been held and progress had been made on minerals and energy.
Export potential had also been identified in the automotive, ostrich, wine, fruit and canning industries, he said.