Midrand: South Africa and Turkey should strengthen efforts to trade more with each other – seeing as both countries play a pivotal role in the development trajectory of the globe, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Thursday.
“The two powerful nations that are critical to the development of the world should be trading more with each other and should be investing more in each other,” said Patel at a South Africa-Turkey Business Forum.
Last year, South African exports to Turkey were in modest value added products, with gold and coal forming part of the top 10 exports to Turkey, while Turkish imports to South Africa included petroleum oils, motor vehicle parts and cars.
South Africa had come a long way since the dawn of democracy, with the New Growth Path (NGP) looking to create five million jobs by 2020. Although South Africa was a potential consumer market for Turkey, Patel called on Turkish business to invest in South Africa.
“We hope to be more than a consumer market, that we can be a destination of investment and a manufacturing base for Turkish companies to use for their exports,” explained Patel.
Last year, President Jacob Zuma convened a meeting of 26 African heads of state, where an agreement was signed which stipulated that over the course of the next two to three years, a Free Trade Agreement would be concluded.
“Over the next two to three years, we will conclude an FTA covering these 26 countries, with 600 million people with a GDP in today’s value of over US$1 trillion, and that constitutes the real market,” said Patel.
This represented an opportunity for Turkey to expand trade with South Africa.
The two countries, given the problems in Europe (which remains South Africa’s largest market for produced products), were looking for new sources of growth, the minister said.
Delegates at the forum were told that South African exports to Turkey had increased by 20% to R3.5 billion in the past year.
“We’ve got to lift the volume of trade and we also have to improve the quality of trade, deepen it and find new opportunities,” Patel told the forum, which was also attended by a Turkish business delegation as well as that country’s minister of trade.
Patel said South Africa possessed enormous resources while also boasting world class infrastructure. He encouraged Turkish business to look into sectors identified by the NGP for opportunities. Sectors such as agro-processing could provide these opportunities.
He told the gathering, which was also attended by Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, that the Infrastructure Commission chaired by President Zuma, was working to increase the level of investment in physical infrastructure.
The Turkish Minister of Economy, Zafer Cagayan, said Turkey wanted to improve relations with South Africa for economic development.
“Growth and development in Africa is achievable by increasing commerce,” said Cagayan, who stressed the importance of government in lending support to entrepreneurs.
“We are interested in doing business with South Africa,” added Cagayan.
The two countries are both members of the G20 and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.