By Tshepo Ikaneng

JAKARTA, April 21 — South Africa and Indonesia have strengthened efforts to increase bilateral trade and to work together to promote technical co-operation in the fields of agriculture, energy and maritime resources.

The two governments have signed a bilateral co-operation agreement which will pave the way for the elimination of trade barriers. The agreement was signed in Jakarta Sunday ahead of the start of the Africa-Asia Summit here Monday.

Trade between South Africa and Indonesia is valued at just above 2.0 billion US dollars a year and has consistently grown over the past five years. South Africa’s major exports to Indonesia include chemical wood pulp, ferrous waste, iron ore, aluminium, apples and pears, and mechanical appliances.

The two countries have engaged in high-level talks to eliminate trade tariffs seen as a major impediment to accelerate trade between the two regional economic powerhouses.

South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is here to attend the Asia-Africa Ministerial summit, described the signing of a bilateral co-operation agreement as a major step toward enhancing trade and investment.

“Bilaterally we’ve just signed a joint economic agreement. We need to advance economic and trade relations. Both Africa and Asia boast a young and educated population. Our people are our best resource and we need to make use of this opportunity,” added Nkoana-Mashabane.

Indonesia, which is hosting celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the historic Bandung Conference which is credited with helping fight colonialism and apartheid in Africa, has called for greater co-operation under the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnerships framework.

Under this co-operation, Indonesia will work together with South Africa in order to assist other countries in the African region to boost trade and investment.

Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said South Africa is one of Indonesia’s most important partners within Africa. “In the context of Asia-Africa, South Africa and Indonesia made the new Africa-Asia strategic partnership to be part of the implementation mechanism for the co-operation of Asia and Africa,” he added.

Marsudi also said that Indonesia would use its influence in South East Asia to foster greater trade co-operation between Asia and Africa. “As the incoming chair of the Indian Ocean Regional Association, Indonesia will promote co-operation in maritime connectivity, so as to shorten the distance between Asia and Africa,” he added.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has arrived in Jakarta and is scheduled to address the Asian-Africa leaders’ summit which is hosted by Indonesia President Joko Widodo.

Minister in the Office of the Presidency Jeff Radebe, who is also in the South African delegation, said South Africa’s participation at the summit was significant because it was important in addressing the country’s socio-economic conditions.

“All the Asian countries and Africa will be here in a summit to fortify economic relations between the two continents. The success will be for further development of economic relations in our countries including South Africa so that we can deal with underlying socio-economic conditions that give rise to some South Africans attacking foreign nationals,” he said.

President Jacob Zuma made a last-minute decision to cancel his trip to Indonesia to attend to xenophobic violence plaguing South Africa.