UK Secretary of State for the Department for International Trade Liam Fox and South Africa Minister for Trade and Industry Rob Davies. Picture: Department of Trade and Industry

Johannesburg - South Africa and United Kingdom have agreed to work together to promote investments in priority sectors of trade to advance sustainable economic development in both countries.

South African trade and industry minister Rob Davies and the UK secretary of state for the department for international trade, Liam Fox, who met on Tuesday, both applauded the progress made in discussions with South African Customs Union member states and Mozambique to ensure the continued economic partnership between the southern African region and the European Union once the UK exits the grouping.

The EU is the largest trading partner with South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Mozambique.

"As we leave the EU and create a new independent UK trade policy, we will build further on 9 billion British pounds of annual trade with South Africa, our biggest trading partner in Africa, and champion free trade to help developing countries combat poverty and grow their economies," Fox said.

He said the UK would avoid any disruption to trade, while in the process of leaving the EU.

Davies said the UK remained an important strategic partner for South Africa and that both countries had enjoyed mutually beneficial trade since the first reciprocal agreement between the African state and the EU in January 2000.

"The UK is South Africa's second largest trading partner in the EU region. Our goods exports to the UK in 2014 were R37.6 billion and increased to R46.3 billion in 2017," he said.

Davies noted that South Africa enjoyed a positive trade balance with the UK, earning the country foreign currency and helping reduce its current account deficit.

South Africa's priority was to change the structure of its trade to add more value added products, he added.

Meanwhile President Cyril Ramaphosa met with UK Prime Minister Theresa May for wide ranging discussions on a number of issues.

Ramaphosa is leading a South African delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, scheduled to take place on April 19 and 20.

"We focused largely on the economy and how our partnership between South Africa and the United Kingdom can be deepened around economic matters — the economic growth that we are trying to drive,” Ramaphosa said in an overview of his meeting with May.

He said he briefed May on South Africa’s investment drive aimed at raising money for investment in the country. The drive is expected to raise U$100 billion in the next five years. 

“She was quite enthusiastic about that and they as the UK would like to find a way or two ways or three ways in which they can also play a role in assisting South Africa on this investment drive,” he said. 

“In a way that will give us a great boost as we are trolling the whole world...to try and campaign for investment that will come to South Africa.”

He said that they were en route to building more confidence in South Africa and the economy, adding that the meeting was an added boost for the country. 

On Monday,  Ramaphosa appointed some of the country's financial heavyweights to head up an ambition investment drive aimed at attracting at least U.S.$100 billion in new foreign direct investments to the economy over the next five years.

Ramaphosa appointed former finance minister Trevor Manuel, former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas, executive chairperson of Afropulse Group Phumzile Langeni, and chairman of Liberty Group Jacko Maree, as the president's special envoys on investment.

Ramaphosa said that the group will be travelling to major financial centres in Asia, Middle East, Europe and the Americas to meet with potential investors, and also seek out investors in other parts of Africa, from Nairobi to Lagos and from Dakar to Cairo.

"These are people with valuable experience in the world of business and finance and extensive networks across major markets. This is part of a broader push by government to advance economic integration in the Southern African region and across the continent," Ramaphosa said at the time.

"In addition to the processes we must undertake within the country to finalise our participation in the African Continental Free Trade Area, we will also be pursuing other initiatives to promote intra-African cooperation on investment, infrastructure development, tourism and agriculture."

On Tuesday, Ramaphosa said South Africa has relations with a number of commonwealth countries and said that the more that they interact with countries the more they see the value. 

“There are economic links between ourselves as South Africa and many of these countries. There are political links but there are cultural links as well,” he said. 

“Something that we should never lose sight of. There are also social links, but, also the commonwealth does from time-to-time have very progressive policy positions that it adopts and this in a world that is becoming a very, very strange place to live in.”

Ramaphosa said that it was important to have a family like the Commonwealth. 

He said that South Africa had a wonderful story to tell and said that in terms of investment, the country had a number of pillars on which the drive could be put on. 

South Africa has a thriving democracy; the country has very strong political stability; SA has sufficient “shock absorbers” to admit whatever shock there may be; and the country has a Constitution that enables us to build durable institutions, Ramaphosa said listing some of the pillars.

He said the judicial system and the press was independent and added that there were other governmental institutions that watches over the State. 

“We’ve got a really well-functioning financial services sector in our country and our manufacturing sector is one of the best on the African continent and that in itself is good enough and case enough to attract investments into South Africa,” he said speaking on the investment advantage in the country. 

“We have got a base — infrastructure is one of the better ones in the developing world. So that gives us a competitive edge. Our education outcomes are getting better and better — so we are having more and more skilled people coming into the market.”

Ramaphosa said the drive for South Africa becoming an investment destination was based on a “real strong” foundation and not on “hot air”.

African News Agency/ANA