By THE AFRICA BAZAAR Staff Writer
South African President Jacob Zuma met this month with two of his counterparts from the Southern African region to push for better trade integrations between South Africa and Botswana; Namibia.
Speaking last week at the inaugural South Africa-Botswana Bi-National Commission meeting, which was co-hosted by the President and Botswana’s President Ian Khama, the leaders said discussions are under way to look at how resources could be streamlined to boost trade between the two Southern African countries.
President Zuma emphasized the importance of speeding up infrastructure projects to facilitate trade and people movements between the two countries.
“It is a question of how … we streamline trade. In this regard, we have taken a decision that our ministers will meet twice a year to evaluate how far the agreements we have signed have been implemented,” said Zuma.
So far, 34 agreements have been signed between South African and Botswana on various issues such as immigration, defense and security, energy, trade, transport and environmental affairs, since the inception of the official relationship nearly 20 years ago.
Earlier in the month during a two-day state visit to Namibia, President Zuma called for the two countries [S.A- Namibia] to explore new, untapped areas of cooperation and to push their trade volumes even higher.
“We need to encourage our private sector to forge close cooperation consistent with our strategic desire to increase mutually beneficial economic cooperation between our sister republics.”
South Africa has strong economic ties with the diamond-rich Namibia, with South Africa being the destination of 66 percent of Namibia’s exports and holds approximately 80 percent of investments in key sectors of Namibia’s economy, including mining, retail, banking and insurance.
President Zuma also said Namibia need to prioritize cross-border infrastructure to facilitate an easier flow of goods and services. Zuma said the two countries should use the SA-Namibia bi-national forum platform to drive for more consistent interaction in key economic sectors, as well as adopt a strategic approach to all cooperation.
“South Africa and Namibia share historical, geographical, cultural and fraternal bonds,” said Zuma. “Our relations were cemented during the difficult times of our respective struggles for liberation against colonialism and apartheid. Ours, therefore, are relations of a special kind, which make it only natural and logical for our two countries to enjoy strong bilateral cooperation.”
Zuma added that the bi-national commission will play a key role in broadening and streamlining cooperation between the countries.
Strong trade and economic ties already exist between the countries and South Africa remains major trading partners to both Botswana and Namibia.
South African companies have a huge presence in Botswana and Namibia and are involved in various sectors, including mining, housing, food and beverages, construction, retail, hotels and leisure, banking and medical services.
Other than the focused on the mutual needs between these countries, the discussions also brought into sharp focus the importance of regional integration, which has become a major priority for African leaders.