With a current account deficit of about 3 billion dinar ($1 billion) in the second quarter of 2018, Tunisia needs to prop up its exports. As it works to increase productivity in the major sectors responsible for its top exports, Tunisia is working to improve its trade relations with South Africa, a country that is a net importer of some of Tunisia’s major exports.
According to South Africa’s Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Bulelani Magwanishe, the establishment of a South Africa – Tunisia Business Council with the aim of stimulating trade and investment is on the cards.
“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,” Magwanishe, who led a group of local companies on an Outward Trade and Investment mission to Tunisia, 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.
Board Member of the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handcrafts, Abdesalem Loued, said the country was open 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,” Loued said.
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 ($35.3 million) in 2017.