SA, Tunisia mull joint business council

The establishment of a South Africa - Tunisia Business Council with the aim of stimulating trade and investment is on the cards, says Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Bulelani Magwanishe.

Magwanishe said he has received the assurance of the Tunisian businesspeople that they are keen and committed to the establishment of the joint South Africa-Tunisia Business Council with the aim of stimulating trade and investment between the two countries.

The Deputy Minister is currently leading a group of local companies on an Outward Trade and Investment mission to Tunisia, as part of efforts to increase trade between the two countries.

We are in Tunisia with a business delegation for the trade and investment mission and what stuck out like a sore thumb throughout our interaction with both the country's business and government leaders since our arrival is the disconcertingly low levels of trade and investment between the two countries, he said on Wednesday.

As government, we recognise that the critical stakeholders that are in a position to change the status quo that we are worried about are businesspeople from South Africa and Tunisia.

This is the reason why we have embarked on a serious engagement with the Tunisian private sector so that we can get the ball rolling to bring them in contact with their South African counterparts in order to do business, he said.

During the meetings between the two sides, Tunisian business associations expressed their desire and keenness to work with the South African business chambers and associations to contribute in increasing trade and investment between South Africa and Tunisia.

They all indicated that the starting point would be the establishment of a joint business council that would facilitate interaction and exchange of information among the businesspeople with the aim of identifying opportunities to jointly explore for investment and trade purposes.

Magwanishe said the council would not only be focusing on trade and investment only but will also facilitate skills transfer, industrialisation and infrastructure development.

Board Member of the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handcrafts, Abdesalem Loued, said the country is amenable to the idea of the establishment of a joint business council.

We are amenable to the idea of establishing a joint business council as the first priority. Our association wants to forge relations with companies in South Africa through cooperation with the local business associations or chambers there. We have member companies that have invested in other countries and we are confident that they will be interested in investing in South Africa as well, said Loued.

The President of the Tunis Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Mournir Mouakhar, also gave his association's commitment to mobilise its members work towards increasing his country's trade and investment with South Africa.

We support the formation of a business council that we will use as a vehicle to promote trade and investment, but we are looking at a sector-specific approach as a starting point of identifying investment and trade opportunities that we can explore together, said Mouakhar.

Trade between South Africa and the North African country remains low despite growing from R431 million in 2011 to more than R500 million in 2017.

Companies participating in the investment mission is doing so through the dti's Export Marketing and Investment Assistance (EMIA) scheme.

The trade mission, which kicked off on Sunday, will conclude on Thursday.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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