by Loni Prinsloo
Trade between South Africa and Republic of Congo reached a peak in 2009, and the two countries met in Johannesburg in early April to further trade relations between them.
Business Unity South Africa chairperson Sandile Zungu said that South Africa exported about R500-million worth of goods to the Congo last year. "Even though this represents a peak it is actually of a very low base and the potential exists to double or even triple that number with the right structures in place within the next year.
"With the assistance of the two governments and private business taking initiative and identifying potential areas of growth, R500-million in exports will look minimal in years to come."
South Africa exports a number of products to Congo that includes juice, fruit and vegetables, parts and accessories of machines, propylene, copolymers, front-end shovel loaders, light oils, containers, sodium triphosphate, telephones for cellular networks, mineral water, cable and other electrical conductors.
Zungu also emphasised that business activity between the two countries would not be a one-way path, and noted that South Africa had a special interest in importing products such as timber, oil, agro-processed food, coco and other beneficiated products from the Congo. "The Congo has the second-biggest forestry industry in the world, and is able to produce large volumes and very high quality timber," commented Zungu.
Further, Zuma said that even though the Congo's oil and petroleum sector was its biggest revenue earner and contributed more than 60% of the country's nominal gross domestic product, agriculture and other industries, were equally important for trade activities.
He welcomed the long-term land lease agreement of over 200 000 ha of idle farmland from the Congo to a consortium of South African farmers. Zuma said that South Africa also saw great potential to invest in the Congo's transport business especially relating to infrastructure development of its roads, maritime- and rail construction, mining, harnessing of energy, tourism development, and information communication technology services.
Bilateral relations between South Africa and Congo were first established on March 22,1993. Cooperation between the two countries operates within the general cooperation agreement and a cooperation agreement instituting a joint commission for cooperation (JCC), which was signed on 25 November 2003. However, the JCC was never formally launched. A bilateral trade agreement between the countries was signed in 2005.