South African companies should take advantage of the myriad investment opportunities in Benin, Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe said on Monday.

She said the opportunities were in the agriculture, infrastructure, financial services, and small, medium, and micro enterprise sectors.

“Our business community must seize the trade and investment opportunities available in Benin, which the two governments are facilitating through the necessary enabling framework,” she said in a speech prepared for delivery.

Thabethe was speaking at a trade and investment seminar attended by business delegates from South Africa and Benin in Cotonou, Benin's economic capital.

Governments from both countries were forging good trade relations that would be conducive for business people to partner and invest, she said.

In November 2012, the countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on economic and technical co-operation.

The MOU was aimed at identifying specific areas that would deepen their technical, trade and industrial co-operation arrangement, Thabethe said.

In February, a joint trade and investment committee was established to help strengthen trade relations.

Thabethe said the trade balance between the countries was skewed in favour of South Africa.

In 2011, bilateral trade between the countries amounted to about R310 million. Imports from Benin amounted to R10m, while South African exports to that country totalled R297m.

South Africa mainly exported vegetable products, nuts, citrus peel, melons and seeds to Benin and imported residues, food industry waste, and animal fodder. - Sapa