Saudi Arabia, South Africa seek to boost trade following pandemic dip

Saudi South African Business Council pledges to boost cooperation in infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and energy, tourism

Kingdom Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Kingdom Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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JEDDAH: South Africa and Saudi Arabia are looking to boost trade between the two countries following a pandemic-hit year that saw imports from the Kingdom fall to a four-year low in 2020.

South African imports from Saudi Arabia slid to $2.69 billion in 2020 from $3.66 billion in 2019 and $5.41 billion in 2018, according to data from the UN Comtrade database. The vast majority of that was made up of oil and fuels ($2.27 billion or 84 percent in 2020), followed by fertilizers at $145.3 million and plastics at $124.5 million.

South Africa imports approximately 40 percent of its oil from Saudi Arabia, according to the EIA.

Far fewer goods went the other way, with Saudi Arabia importing $347.8 million from South Africa last year, down from $423.8 million in 2019 and $423.0 million in 2018.

The Saudi South African Business Council under the umbrella of the Federation of Saudi Chambers, held the Saudi South African business webinar on Thursday, co-organized with the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce.

The two countries have committed to strengthen their ties by working more closely in sectors such as infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and energy, tourism, and other areas.

“Despite the progress in our relations, we look forward to expanding the scope of our cooperation with South Africa in line with our respective capabilities,” said Chairman of the Saudi-South African Business Council Hisham Al-Amoudi. “The Saudi market has the capacity to host more South African investments, namely in mining, health care, small to medium enterprises (SMEs), agriculture and information technology, among others.”

Al-Amoudi said that a number of measures must be taken to achieve this, including activating the agreements and memorandum of understanding (MOUs) signed between the two countries, increasing activities of the Saudi South African Business Council, “developing programs that support our goals, and enhancing our overall dialogue on topics of mutual interest.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made a state visit to the Kingdom in 2018 to meet King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to assess relations, focusing primarily on strengthening economic linkages between South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and South Africa are both G20 countries, and the Crown Prince has met with the South African President on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Argentina.

“Saudi Arabia is also a large investor in South Africa, especially in the area of renewable energy,” said Al-Amoudi.

“We seek to work with our South African friends to facilitate the access of Saudi products to the South African market, and enhance the Saudi-South African balance of trade,” he said. “I hope that these initiatives will elevate a strong relation to a higher level,” he added.

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