11 September 2013
South African and British government ministers have announced the launch of a South Africa-UK business council to promote focused trade and investment partnerships between the two countries.
Speaking to journalists after co-hosting the 10th South Africa-UK Bilateral Forum in Cape Town on Tuesday, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the two countries had made considerable progress in strengthening their economic ties.
“The UK is South Africa’s largest source of foreign direct investment and our seventh largest export market.”
Tuesday’s forum was co-hosted by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was accompanied by a high-level delegation including the British ministers for Africa, for universities and science, and for energy and climate change.
Nkoana-Mashabane said the forum had discussed the two countries’ development cooperation programme, as well as the visa regime currently applicable between them.
South Africa continues to push for a return to visa-free travel for citizens and businesses visiting the UK. In 2009, a visa regime was introduced for South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho after the UK complained about the ease with which foreigners could fraudulently acquire passports.
However, the UK seems impressed by the progress South Africa has made in improving its passport security features and clamping down on corrupt officials in its Department of Home Affairs.
“We have noted the increasing flows and movement of people between our countries as a significant trend in our relations,” Nkoana-Mashabane said. “The UK is South Africa’s number one source of long-haul tourism in the world. In 2012, more than 440 000 tourists from the UK visited South Africa, representing a 9.9% growth compared to the previous year.
“I have informed Foreign Secretary Hague that many more South Africans would like to visit the UK. There is therefore an urgent need to address the challenge posed by the current visa regime.”
SAinfo reporter and SAnews.gov.za