Japan-South Africa Business Forum launched off the back of a strong trade surplus for South Africa – ‘it can invigorate the economic relationship and boost green industries’ says South Africa’s Minister Ebrahim Patel.

South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel and Ambassador of Japan to South Africa Maruyama Norio today launched the Japan-South Africa Business Forum at an event attended by high-ranking investors and government officials from both countries. It follows a meeting in Cape Town recently between Japan’s Vice Minister for the Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Mr Iwata Kazuchika and Minister Patel.

The purpose of the Business Forum is to promote trade, investment and commercial relations between Japan and South Africa and to address barriers to doing business in Japan and South Africa. The two governments jointly chair it.

Japan is currently South Africa’s fourth largest market for exports after China, the US and Germany.  SA exports to Japan increased from R61 billion in 2011 to R150 billion in 2021. Last year and SA imported R34 billion worth of goods in the bilateral trade, resulting in a R114 billion trade surplus in South Africa’s favour with Japan.

Significant recent investments by Japanese businesses saw the launch of the Toyota Corolla Cross hybrid vehicle and the new D-Max Isuzu bakkie.

Addressing the Business Forum, Minister Patel noted the long-standing and deep economic relationship between the two countries. He referred to the commitment by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Japan’s then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2019 to strengthen economic relations further.

He called for focused actions in nine areas to promote this vision. These ranged from resolving challenges with visas for Japanese business representatives, to expanded access for SA products in Japan and deeper levels of investment and industrialisation by Japanese companies in South Africa.

The two governments agreed to an ambitious work programme that includes collaboration on green industrialisation and electric vehicle technologies as well as green hydrogen. They agreed to a virtual ‘road-show’ to highlight SA opportunities to more Japanese businesses, skills development in the local auto industry, workstreams on manufacturing opportunities in SA and the exchange of technical experiences and information related to sector strategies, industrialisation, trade and competition matters.

The Business Forum received reports on potential market access opportunities in Japan, particularly for South African food and beverage products and agreed to explore these further.

“The new free-trade pact on the African continent can unlock vast new opportunities for industrialisation in South Africa and our neighbours. I am very encouraged by the positive spirit among Japanese investors and the commitment to strengthening ties and economic opportunities, including for small and medium businesses. This Forum can invigorate the economic relationship and boost green industries. We have now agreed to nine workstreams of actions that both countries will work together to address, with the first reports due within three months,” Minister Patel said.

Japan’s Ambassador Norio Maruyama appreciated the closer partnership and noted three essential elements for Japanese companies as safety, predictability and stability to enlarge their business in South Africa. Safety is the most important for all to maintain their business.

Both Governments agreed that an efficient visa system for business people would improve perceptions about the predictability and stability of investment in South Africa. Ambassador Muriyama emphasized the need to keep South Africa as an attractive destination for Japanese business people.

The Business Forum was also addressed by senior Japanese Government officials from METI and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, as well as business representatives from South Africa and Japan.  South Africa’s Ambassador to Japan, Mr Lulama Ngonyama joined the meeting by video-link and provided opening remarks.

Issued by the Department of Trade, industry and Competition (the dtic)

Bongani Lukhele – Director: Media Relations
Tel: (012) 394 1643
Mobile: 079 5083 457
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E-mail: BLukhele@thedtic.gov.za
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