DM Masina Opens the South Africa-Cuba Business Forum

Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Ms Ileana Nunez Mordoche

Business Representatives

Program Director

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentleman

It is indeed a great honour for me to be addressing this high level delegation representing business in South Africa and Cuba during the South Africa Cuba business seminar which we are hosting on the margins of the Havana International Fair.

Cuba is South Africa’s long standing partner and ally. Our relations stems from long before the democratic government in South Africa as we have been friends during the struggle against apartheid. Cuba played a critical role in the liberation of many countries on the continent including South Africa where it was instrumental in the fight against apartheid. Today, South Africa and Cuba continues to enjoy strong and cordial bilateral political relations.

Last week Deputy President Ramaphosa during his visit to Cuba indicated that the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) has been appointed as the new facilitator to fulfil the implementation of the Economic Assistance Package and that the ARF is ready to start disbursing the funds to Cuba.

Ladies and gentleman,

Two-way trade between South Africa and Cuba has not been satisfactory. Trade increased from R55.6 million in 1994, when our two countries formalised diplomatic relations, to R73.5 million in 2010 but declined to R49 million in 2014. On the positive note, our bilateral trade recovered well beyond 2009 global economic crisis level of R27.7 million. Despite our two countries signing an Agreement on Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investment in December 1995, there has been no notable increase in two-way investments and we hope the recent business visits to both countries propelled by both governments will change this status quo.

It is in view of this background that both countries have realised the importance of improving our economic relations so that they match our political relations. There is certainly greater room to grow the volume of two way trade, create a more diversified balance of SA exports, a greater proportion of beneficiated and higher value goods and services in our export basket to Cuba.

There are measures that government have taken and continues to do so to promote business between the two countries. One of such measures is the outbound and inbound business mission. Needless to say that South Africa has been a regular participant at FIVAH. However, the magnitude of the business delegation that I am leading during FIVAH 2015 represents the commitment by the South African government to improve economic relations with Cuba. We have 35 South African companies, 20 exhibitors hoping to conclude export deals and 15 companies that will be exploring investment opportunities and possible joint ventures.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We welcomed the Cuban business delegation comprising of 9 companies in South Africa in September 2015 from the following sectors: capital equipment, machinery, food products and sugar, pharmaceuticals, sugar, tourism and chemicals. During this visit, the South African business delegation was informed of a portfolio of opportunities that exists in 246 projects worth US$8.7 billion in 11 strategic sectors of the Cuban economy. Those sectors include agribusiness, biotech and pharmaceutical, tourism, renewable energy, construction, oil exploration, mining, industrial production. Strides were made during this visit and there is high potential for our companies to forge partnership and explore business opportunities in both countries. A follow-up of a business delegation led by Deputy President Ramaphosa last week was made to work on progress made in South Africa and seal the deals. The South African companies are present here to also take the negotiations that started in South Africa forward and to explore the oprtunities that were presented to them in South Africa.

South Africa today is a promising emerging market in the world. We have a combination of a well-developed business services support and dynamic investment environment with a number of global competitive and comparative advantages and opportunities.  We are fast becoming a centre of manufacturing excellence offering promising opportunities in both trade and investments in automotive components, capital equipment, aerospace, chemicals, agro-processing, ICT to name a few. As a country we are currently developing Special Economic Zones which offers investment opportunities and incentives for potential investors. We recognise that Cuba is also creating a Special Economic Zone in the port of Mariel and the opportunities that it will come with for the potential investors from South Africa.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that by combining expertise and developing synergies, South African and Cuban companies can establish successful partnerships, which could only deliver benefits to our enterprises. Our participation in FIHAV will deliver results in the form of new collaboration and trade partnerships in key areas of opportunities and it will strengthen and deepen mutually beneficial economic relations between the two countries.

Thank You

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