Cape Town: Switzerland and South Africa on Thursday held high-level consultations on a number of issues, including how they can co-operate in promoting peace in Africa, with trade between the two countries having risen by 25% in the last five years.
The Deputy Minister of International Relations, Marius Fransman, and Switzerland’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Yves Rossier, agreed that both countries would look at increasing mutual co-operation to support Somalia and the Horn of Africa region, and to encourage the process of reconciliation.
During the 4th session of the SA-Switzerland High Level Consultations in Cape Town, Fransman and Rossier also discussed how to strengthen economic and investment co-operation.
While Switzerland is ranked sixth when it comes to the value of foreign direct investment (FDI) in South Africa, according to the Swiss Embassy, trade between the two countries had risen sharply in the last five years.
Fransman said total trade between Switzerland and South Africa had risen by 25% since 2007, while SA exports to Switzerland increased from R8.8 billion in 2007 to over R21 billion in 2011.
Switzerland imports mainly platinum, diamonds and other precious metals from South Africa and mainly exports pharmaceutical products to South Africa.
Rossier said Swiss companies – which include Nestle, Schindler, pharmaceutical company Novarti and electrical engineering giant ABB – employ over 37 000 people in South Africa, all in skilled jobs.
He said Switzerland has long invested significantly in education in the past years and that therefore Swiss companies viewed the upskilling of employees as vital.
He also pointed out that Switzerland and South Africa shared a lot of views on various issues, especially on human rights and added that the European country had a lot to learn from South Africa’s history and the moral impact it had made on the world.
Fransman said the co-operation with Switzerland would be strengthened, particularly around learning from the European country on how to tackle inequality and poverty.
He said both South Africa and Switzerland agreed on the importance of human rights, a value-based society and the rule of law.
He said the two also agreed that multilateral institutions such as the IMF and World Bank needed to reform to be more representative of the developing world.