The unrealised trade potential between South Africa and Sri Lanka is exciting and shows ‘the possibility to take bilateral trade between the two countries into a new level’. Both countries should commence exchanging business level delegations with each other too, agreed both South Africa and Sri Lanka on Thursday, 15 September, in Colombo.
The mutual understanding emerged when Geoff Doidge, High Commissioner of South Africa in Colombo, made a courtesy call on Rishad Bathiudeen, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce in Colombo on 15 September. Doidge directly reports to the President of South Africa on Sri Lankan affairs.
“To reinvigorate bilateral trade, we need to start exchanging business and industry delegations mutually. As an initial step, I invite South African business and industry delegations to the mega export exhibition ‘Sri Lanka EXPO 2012,’ organised by the EDB to be held from 28 to 30 March, 2012 in Colombo,” Minister Bathiudeen informed Doidge.
Minister Bathiudeen also discussed Sri Lanka’s participation in the next SAITEX (South African International Trade Exhibition). Sri Lanka already took part in SAITEX 2010, held from 25-27 July 2010 in Johannesburg and Sri Lanka Road Show in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
South Africa is the most important trading partner for Sri Lanka in the Southern African region and is also considered as the biggest export market for Sri Lanka in the region. There was a favourable trade balance of 2.4 m for Sri Lanka in 2010.
Total exports from Sri Lanka to South Africa have increased over the past eight years from US$ 10.41 m in 2002 to US$ 15.6 m in 2009, recoding a significant increase of 50%. In 2010 Sri Lanka’s exports to South Africa increased by 33.5% to US$ 20.8 m. As for imports, in 2002, imports from South Africa stood at US$ 29.72 million while in 2010 it fell to $ 17.90 million, reporting a positive favourable balance for Sri Lanka.
“Among South Africa’s exports are diamonds, gold, metals and minerals, sugar, fruits, and corn. South Africa can invest in Sri Lanka with a view to benefitting from Sri Lanka’s FTAs with India and Pakistan and also our regional trade agreements SAFTA and APTA, South Africa can use Sri Lanka as a manufacturing base to reach the Asian region,” Minister Bathiudeen revealed.
“South Africa wants to establish direct air links with Sri Lanka and we shall most welcome a direct airlift agreement to this end,” responded Doidge to Minister Bathiudeen. “We also like to see a coordinated single window mechanism consisting of the EDB, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Sri Lanka Customs and so on for South Africa to interact with as a single point of contact,” he added.
Revealing South Africa’s investment priorities in the country, Doidge said: “South Africa can introduce its well- known west coast fishing industry Companies to fishery industry in the North and East.
We are also willing to invest in the gem and jewellery sector, fruit and juice processing, and tourism. South Africa being a top gold and diamond producer in the world, our potential investments, in Sri Lanka on gem and jewelley, if made, can go long way to bolster Sri Lanka’s gem and jewellery sector. Also with more than $ 10,000 per capita income (on PPP), SA itself is a ready and a strong market for Sri Lankan gems.”
Doidge added that Sri Lanka could also use South Africa as a base to access other African markets.