Economy, Domestic Economy

Iran, S. Africa Aim for $8b Annual Trade

Iran, S. Africa Aim for $8b Annual TradeIran, S. Africa Aim for $8b Annual Trade

Iran and South Africa have vowed to raise economic exchanges to $8 billion a year by 2020, said the visiting South African President Jacob Zuma.

Speaking at a joint trade forum held in Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture in Tehran on Sunday, Zuma said, “In 2015, bilateral trade was in the neighborhood of $350 million, an unimpressive figure when we think of our economic capacities,” IRNA reported.

“South Africa regards Iran as its strategic partner in the Middle East and Central Asia. As one of the main providers of crude oil for South Africa, economic sanctions against Tehran left a negative impact on our economy.”

Before the imposition of sanctions by the West against Iran over its nuclear energy program, Iran was one of the top 10 trade partners of South Africa, meeting 40% of the African country’s need for crude oil. The figure plummeted to zero during the sanction years.

Referring to the memoranda of understanding signed between Tehran and Pretoria in November 2015, Zuma said, “We are back again to restructure the bilateral ties by means of practical solutions.”

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and 80 business leaders were part of the South African delegation to Iran in November.

Also present at the forum was Iran’s Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh.

Noting that Tehran and Pretoria can cooperate in the fields of automotive, minerals, food and tourism, Nematzadeh said the two countries are planning to establish a direct flight between themselves in the not-too-distant future.

Zuma arrived in Tehran on Sunday and was welcomed by his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

“South Africa can link Iran to the Africa continent. Iranian ports, in return, can connect South Africa to Central Asia, Caucasus region, Russia and Eastern Europe,” Rouhani said in their meeting.

He added that following the removal of sanctions on Iran, the ground is now prepared for boosting cooperation with the African state, which he referred to as a “close friend” in hard times when Tehran was under sanctions.

Inviting Rouhani to visit his country, the African president said, “With enhanced economic and commercial relations between Iran and South Africa, great capacities for collaboration between Asia and Africa will emerge.”

The two sides signed a series of memoranda of understating in a wide range of fields, including insurance, investment, fight against money laundering, energy, commerce and industries, agriculture, water resource management and culture.

Thanks to the major role South Africa plays in international assemblies, namely the G77 and G20, it can become Iran’s gateway to the 350-million market of the Southern African Development Community and the 300-million Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

President Zuma, who is accompanied by a 180-strong politico-economic delegation, six ministers and nearly 100 business figures, was scheduled to visit Isfahan on Monday. This is the first-ever visit by a South African president to Iran in 37 years.