Ramaphosa leads Persian carpet ride to Iran
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to visit Iran to re-establish trade ties and formally authorise the formation of the Iran and South Africa Joint Business Council.
Ramaphosa’s trip to Iran will follow a “successful” visit to Iran this week by a business delegation led by Sello Rasethaba, co-chairperson of the newly formed bilateral council, which includes members of the Black Business Council.
While Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, would not confirm when Ramaphosa would be travelling to Iran, because “a date has not been confirmed yet”, City Press understands that Ramaphosa’s visit would be another huge step towards strengthening trade ties between the two countries after the lifting of international trade sanctions last month.
Mahmoud Soroush, second counsellor to the Iranian embassy in Pretoria, said his country hoped that the trade value between the two countries would return to the trade levels last seen three years ago – Iranian oil exports to South Africa stood at $3.5 billion in 2012, before the sanctions were imposed.
In 2007, South African exports to Iran stood at R1.5 billion, but by 2014 that figure had dropped to R250 million, when South African imports of oil from Iran had fallen to $100 million.
Soroush said the latest oil-import figures of $100 million last year showed how the international sanctions had affected trade relations.
“South African companies in the sectors of agriculture, irrigation systems, telecommunications and industrial cooperation in the various sectors can also get involved. Banking relations and setting up shipping lines and air routes will also help increase relations between the two countries,” said Soroush.
Rasethaba said the Iran and South Africa Joint Business Council would be used as a platform to strengthen economic ties between the business communities in the two countries, and facilitate regular interactions between members of the council and the two governments.
“We need to work hard not to get back to those trade levels before the sanctions. But unlike other countries, the South African government has consistently supported the government of Iran throughout the sanctions period,” said Rasethaba.
The focus areas for the council would be to promote reciprocal business opportunities between the two countries, provide consistent trade figures to identify new business opportunities, promote technology exchange and research, develop education and skills transfer and training to help productivity, and particularly focus on how South African and Iranian businesses can support this aim, said Rasethaba.
“The terms of reference for the council will be signed when leaders of the two governments meet, whether in Iran or in Pretoria,” added Rasethaba.
OUR MAN IN IRAN