Ahead of a Joint Business Hybrid In Person/Webinar to be hosted by the Federation of Saudi Chambers on Thursday, Arab News spoke to Imran Simmins, First Secretary Political at the South African Embassy in Riyadh, who said the bilateral trade is still currently dominated by crude oil and its byproducts.
Business representatives in agriculture, food and entertainment, industry, healthcare, technology, tourism, defence, and mining sectors see plenty of potential for collaboration between both countries, and will use the event to explore bilateral growth opportunities together.
“Commodities from South Africa are mainly agricultural products and live animals. On the basis of Vision 2030 and the NDP 2030, with their focus on industrialization, we envisage a future dominated by trade in manufactured products,” Simmins said.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, both countries committed to use technology to improve their economies. He said the pandemic has forced technology to play a more central role in life in general, as well as how specifically economic activity is conducted.
“This is one major field in which both countries will be collaborating in the future,” Simmins added.
Simmins added: “South Africa is becoming drier and drier with each drought spell being more serious and expansive than the previous one. The country is beginning to look beyond rainwater for its livelihood. Saudi’s seawater desalination expertise will definitely be crucial.”
Both countries share a desire for a diversified economy not dependent on the export of raw natural resources, a key part of both their developmental plans; the National Development Plan (NDP) in South Africa and Vision 2030 in Saudi Arabia.
This has seen both nations commit to cleaner forms of energy despite being endowed with coal (South Africa) and the crude oil (from the Kingdom) that dominates trade relations.
In 2018, King Salman announced a $10 billion investment in the South African economy.
Aramco and the South African Ministry of Energy are currently exploring the possibility of building an oil refinery and a petrochemical plant in Richards Bay, on the country's north east coast. The refinery will serve the entire Southern African region.
Trade in technology, goods, and services will need every assistance available from bilateral trade events before oil and natural resources cease to dominate trade between South Africa and the Kingdom.