30 September 2011
South Africa and Russia have agreed to increase their cooperation in energy, technology, trade and investment following a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Co-operation (Itec) between the two countries.
Itec is a platform for the South African and Russian Federation governments to enhance cooperation and relationships that already exist between the two governments, their people and businesses.
The meeting, which took place in Pretoria on Wednesday and Thursday, was chaired by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Russian Minister of Natural Resources Yuri Petrovich Trutnev.
Although strategically poised, bilateral trade between South Africa and Russia has fallen below its potential.
To strike a balance, the two ministers agreed to take steps to increase trade, while shifting the focus to high value-added products, as well as to enhance cooperation in high-technology areas.
New trade and investment opportunities
Nkoana-Mashabane told a media briefing after the talks that South Africa and Russia would exploit new trade and investment opportunities and identify and resolve potential obstacles in areas of cooperation.
“This will facilitate economic competitiveness, develop skills, generate sustainable jobs and contribute towards an improvement in the livelihoods of the peoples of South African and Russia,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
Russia, which has highly skilled people in science and technology, offers huge opportunities for trade and investment partnerships, especially in minerals, energy, agriculture, education and skills development.
Nkoana-Mashabane was confident that the accession of South Africa to the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) would increase the potential for future cooperation, especially in science, technology and space exploration.
SA, Russia ‘complement each other’
Commenting on Russia’s investment direction in SA, Petrovich Trutnev said the cooperation was diversified and that the two countries complemented each other in different areas such as minerals, energy, space and raw materials, gold and diamonds.
Petrovich Trutnev was confident that great things lay on the horizon for Russian and South African trade.
Total trade turnover between South Africa and the Russian Federation increased by 6.42% in 2009, from US$484-million to $517-million.
The two parties also agreed to frequent interaction through the business council in order to enhance knowledge of commercial opportunities, while prioritising capacity building and skills transfer, particularly in high-technology areas.
Square Kilometre Array bid
On issues of mutual interest, Pretoria hoped that the BRICS countries would cooperate in securing Africa the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.
If Africa wins the bid against Australia – a decision expected in March 2012 – this would be a major step in developing high-level skills and cutting-edge technology infrastructure in Africa, and attract expertise and collaborative projects to the continent.
For its part, Russia flagged their confidence in South Africa ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) on climate change in Durban later this year.
The meeting was sealed by the signing of two agreements on solar cooperation.
The next Itec meeting will be held in 2012.