Bangladesh has proposed South Africa visa waiver agreement and formation of “Bangladesh-South Africa business council” to assess potential and consult with businesses, with the aim of gaining a billion dollars in business through mutual efforts and bilateral trade.
These came up for discussion as State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Md. Shahriar Alam held discussions with South Africa’s Deputy Foreign Minister Candith Mashego Dlamini to explore the potential for increased trade and investment between the two countries.
“Bangladesh and South Africa have objectives of socio-economic development in common, and in order to boost trade and investment, these two countries have huge potential to do it as an ally,” said Shahriar Alam after the recent meeting.
The Bangladesh junior minister also thanked the South African government for their help on the Rohingya issue and sought assistance for repatriation. Additionally, the Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) expressed interest in working with Bangladeshi chambers to create a more friendly business environment between the two nations.
South Africa’s Deputy Foreign Minister’s Perspective
The Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa expressed a desire for increased trade and business cooperation with Bangladesh, encouraging investors from Bangladesh to invest in various sectors in South Africa. Dlamini proposed measures to broaden institutional cooperation between the two countries, including regular foreign office meetings, establishing air service connectivity and B2B contacts, exchanging knowledge in agriculture and peacekeeping, and simplifying the visa process for applicants from Bangladesh. Emphasising the need for private sector engagement, Dlamini hopes to strengthen the partnership between Bangladesh and South Africa.
The Dynamics of Bangladesh-South Africa Ties
The relationship between Bangladesh and South Africa is not a new case in the history of bilateral relations. In support of South Africa’s protest against race discrimination, according to the International Labour Office (1984), Bangladesh banned its people’s visits to South Africa before the end of discrimination and apartheid. After the end of apartheid and the election of Mandela, Bangladesh created strong ties with South Africa in notable sectors. During the inauguration ceremony of Nelson Mandela’s presidency in South Africa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh was invited, and he was present there too. It was on September 10, 1994, when these two nations established formal diplomatic relations for the first time.
Earlier, on November 20, 2021, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh-South Africa’s trade relations are not up to the mark, and the international relations minister of South Africa, Grace Naledi M Pandor, admitted the negligence and urged Bangladeshi companies to increase their businesses in South Africa.
How is Bangladesh in the eyes of South Africa?
South Africa has identified Bangladesh as a country with great potential to increase trade and business, which could benefit both nations economically. The bilateral relationship between the two countries has been steadily growing since 1994. The amount of trade expanded so rapidly that it stood at nearly 5.2 billion Rand in 2021, up from 28 million in 1994. But the pandemic situation slowed activities for the last two years. And it’s the time when both of these countries are hoping to get back to their expanding relations in business once again to broaden this gradually and, of course, in a large manner. After the meeting of 3rd February 2023, the officials can now hope for a cure for these pertaining stalemates in business relations of the two countries.
Exporting iron and steel products, citrus fruit, chemicals, mineral products, and pharmaceuticals, South Africa’s total export earnings from Bangladesh stood at more than Rand 3.4 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of Rand 1.6 billion. The products Bangladesh exports to South Africa are textiles, clothing, leather and leather products, footwear, chemicals, and machinery. According to the Black Business Council, Bangladesh can establish trade relations with other southern African regional countries too, and of course, South Africa can help Bangladesh greatly in this regard.
Potentials for Bangladesh in South Africa’s market
Africa is a continent that can be considered rich in resources. Online sources suggest that by 2050, the collective GDP of countries in West, East, Central, and South Africa may reach up to $29 trillion. Against this backdrop, Bangladesh has gained $396,942,717.67 million from exporting goods to African nations in the 2020-21 fiscal year, with more than one-fourth of that total ($110,401,762.37 million) coming from South Africa alone, according to the Export Promotion Bureau. This indicates a significant economic potential for Bangladesh to further its trade and business ties with African countries, particularly South Africa.
The spokesman of South Africa’s foreign ministry, Clayson Monyela, said, “There are views in common between both Bangladesh and South Africa on numerous global issues, and in the enhancement of development procedures in southern countries, South Africa counts Bangladesh as an important ally.”
Keeping these points in mind, Shahriar and Dlamini agreed to expand bilateral relations between the two sides on a large scale during the meeting. The other attendees of that meeting were the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to South Africa and related officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. In fact, both Bangladesh and South Africa are members of G77, the Commonwealth, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), and the Non-Aligned Movement. Bangladesh is holding the IORA chair position.