SA wants to boost Iran trade

180-strong SA del­e­ga­tion puts out feel­ers in Iran in a bid to re­store and sur­pass trade fig­ures of the past

CityPress - - Business - JUSTIN BROWN justin.brown@city­

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani this week agreed to in­crease South African and Ira­nian non-oil trade to $1 bil­lion (R14.4 bil­lion) by 2020 fol­low­ing the lift­ing of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions on Iran ear­lier this year. This com­pares with to­tal trade of R358 mil­lion be­tween the two coun­tries last year.

The Tehran Times web­site quoted Ira­nian Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ali Tayeb­nia as say­ing: “We hope to swell bi­lat­eral trade to some­where in be­tween $1 bil­lion and $2 bil­lion in the com­ing years.”

The Ira­nian state-owned Mehr news agency re­ported that Tayeb­nia, fol­low­ing a meet­ing with his South African coun­ter­part, Pravin Gord­han, an­nounced that an Ira­nian bank was seek­ing to es­tab­lish a joint bank in South Africa.

Sanc­tions knocked South African ex­ports to Iran from R1.5 bil­lion in 2007 to R211 mil­lion last year.

In a speech dur­ing the state visit, Zuma said: “To­tal trade, how­ever, has un­for­tu­nately been fall­ing over the past decade, ow­ing to, among other things, the nonex­is­tence of bank­ing re­la­tions be­tween South Africa and the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran, and the var­i­ous sanc­tions im­posed by the West.”

The pres­i­dent led a 180-strong del­e­ga­tion to at­tract bil­lions of rands in Ira­nian in­vest­ment.

He was ac­com­pa­nied by Deputy Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co­op­er­a­tion No­main­dia Mfeketo, Min­is­ter of Trade and In­dus­try Rob Davies, Min­is­ter of En­ergy Tina Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son, Min­is­ter of Water and San­i­ta­tion Nomvula Mokonyane, Min­is­ter of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Ebrahim Pa­tel and a busi­ness del­e­ga­tion.

Black Busi­ness Coun­cil CEO Mo­hale Ralebitso, said that their vice-pres­i­dent, Sandile Zungu, and co-chair­per­son, Sello Rasethaba, were part of the South African del­e­ga­tion.

“We wel­come the mis­sion to Iran and hope that it will en­hance op­por­tu­ni­ties for South Africa,” said Ralebitso.

Prior to the in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, Iran was the big­gest oil sup­plier to South Africa.

Since June 2002, South Africa has not been im­port­ing Ira­nian crude oil. South Africa is now look­ing at build­ing an oil re­fin­ery to process Ira­nian crude oil.

The SABC quoted Davies as say­ing that cor­dial diplo­matic ties pre­sented South African com­pa­nies with an op­por­tu­nity to in­vest in the un­tapped Ira­nian mar­ket.

Zuma said that eight mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing were signed to strengthen the coun­tries’ bi­lat­eral eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion.

“I have been ac­com­pa­nied by a large group of South African com­pa­nies in an ar­ray of sec­tors, in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, min­ing, chem­i­cals and en­ergy.

“The siz­able del­e­ga­tion aptly ar­tic­u­lates the se­ri­ous­ness that we ac­cord to strength­en­ing our trade, in­vest­ment and eco­nomic bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.”

He also an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of the South Africa-Iran Busi­ness Coun­cil.

“South Africa of­fers many op­por­tu­ni­ties, not only for ac­cess to a grow­ing do­mes­tic mar­ket, but also as a plat­form to the dy­nam­i­cally grow­ing mar­kets of the African con­ti­nent...

“South Africa is the lead­ing re­gional-hub lo­ca­tion for com­pa­nies seek­ing to es­tab­lish them­selves in the African re­gion,” said Zuma.

Ma­jor South African com­pa­nies in Iran in­clude MTN, which has a 49% stake in the Iran­cell con­sor­tium. Sa­sol di­vested com­pletely from the coun­try in 2013. MTN could stand to see funds of up to $1.1 bil­lion repa­tri­ated into its cof­fers. The amount com­prises about $600 mil­lion of de­clared and un­paid div­i­dends and $500 mil­lion of in­ter­com­pany loans and ac­cu­mu­lated in­ter­est.

MTN was re­stricted from repa­tri­at­ing money from Iran be­cause of the sanc­tions.

MTN, in its an­nual re­port re­leased this week, said: “The eas­ing of sanc­tions in Iran and its re­lated eco­nomic up­lift of­fers sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pand our ser­vices in the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in the dig­i­tal space where we have a strong mar­ket po­si­tion.

“We are work­ing to­wards the re­mit­tance of R15 bil­lion dur­ing the first half of 2016.”


TRADE IND­ABA Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Rob Davies (left) with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma at the SA-Iran Busi­ness Fo­rum in Tehran. With them is Iran’s in­dus­try min­is­ter, Mo­ham­mad Reza Ne­matzadeh, and (right) Ma­soud Khansari, head of the Tehran Cham­ber of Com­merce

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