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LAHORE: High Commissioner of South Africa Mthuthuzeli Madikiza has called for direct trade linkages between the two countries instead through Europe.

He was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. LCCI President Mian Nauman Kabir presented welcome address while Honorary Consul General of South Africa Syed Shahid Ali and LCCI Vice President Haris Ateeq also spoke on the occasion.

The High Commissioner said that South African products to Pakistan and Pakistani products to South Africa are reaching through European countries. Both the countries should take measures to ensure direct trade. He said that exchange of trade delegations can play a pivotal role in increasing the two-way trade. He said that the private sectors of two countries should take lead to strengthen mutual trade and economic ties.

LCCI President Mian Nauman Kabir said that South Africa is famous for its incredible diversity, stunning landscapes, and rich culture. Geographically, it is one of the most diverse countries in African continent, comprising territory that ranges from the rolling, fertile plains of the Highveld and the wide-open savannah of Mpumalanga to the Kalahari Desert and the peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains. We have great reverence for the Former President of South Africa - Nelson Mandela, who referred South Africa as the “Rainbow Nation” because of its racial diversity.

Mian Nauman Kabir said that South Africa has the largest economy in Africa after Nigeria. It is the only African country that is part of the G-20. Unlike most other African economies which still rely heavily on mining and agriculture, the South African economy is fairly diversified.

The LCCI President said that both Pakistan and South Africa enjoy long lasting cordial relations with each other based on mutual respect and integrity but these relations are not truly reflected in bilateral trade volume. The balance of trade has traditionally been in favour of South Africa.

Mian Nauman Kabir said that as per the statistics by State Bank of Pakistan, the two way trade was around $1 billion in 2020-21 as compared to $972 million in 2019-20 after a little increase in both imports and exports. Pakistan’s imports from South Africa increased from $812 million in 2019-20 to $888 million in 2020-21 while our exports to South Africa also registered a small increase from $161 million in 2019-20 to $182 million during 2020-21.

“We expect better trade figures this financial year as during the first eight months of the current financial year i.e. July 2021 to Feb 2022, our exports to South Africa stood at $131 million as compared to $118 million during the same period of previous financial year,” the LCCI President added.

Mian Nauman Kabir added that Pakistan’s main exports to South Africa include precious metal, iron & steel, photographic & medical equipment, machinery, footwear, vegetables, chemicals, raw hides & leather, plastics & rubber etc. While our imports from South Africa include machinery, foodstuffs, vegetables, live animals, textiles, stone & glasses, vehicles, aircraft & vessels, chemicals, toys & sport apparel etc.

He mentioned that Pakistan is known for rice, surgical instruments and sports goods around the globe. I would like to share with you that Pakistan has also made great advancement in pharmaceutical sector in the last couple of decades. In these areas, the share of Pakistan in imports of South Africa is negligible.

The LCCI President said that in 2020-21, the value of rice imported by South Africa was $505 million and Pakistan’s share was merely $9.7 million which dipped from $13.8 million during 2019-20. In same period, the global pharmaceutical imports of South Africa were $3 billion and Pakistan could only fetch the share of $5.7 million. Pakistan has a great potential of increasing its exports to South Africa not only in these sectors but many others.

He said that private sector of Pakistan needs support of High Commissioner to explore South African market to boost our exports in these sectors. It would certainly help us in closing the much wider gap of trade deficit and ultimately in enhancing the bilateral trade volume.

He informed the High Commissioner that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce has always emphasized on strengthening the trade and investment bonds with non-traditional markets and African region generally while South Africa particularly is on our top priority. We certainly want to diversify our export basket especially in the context to South Africa.

Mian Nauman Kabir said that the continent of Africa offers a huge market to Pakistani businessmen for enhancing trade and investment. South Africa being the most modern and leading country of Africa can become trading hub for Pakistan. It can be made possible with your cooperation and guidance.

He said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce is keen to cooperate and collaborate with your good office for enhancing the bilateral trade and investment connections with South Africa.

LCCI Vice President Haris Ateeq said that the barriers should be removed which are hampering the growth of two-way trade. He suggested that a Pakistan-Africa Business Forum should be formed. He said that single country exhibitions would also be planned. He said that the calendar of business activities and exhibitions in South Africa must be shared.

Former LCCI Senior Vice President Amjad Ali Jawa, EC Members Jawad Elahi and Mian Atiq-ur-Rehman were also present.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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