The Indonesian ambassador to South Africa, Salman Al Farisi, recently said the two countries share the same desire and aspiration for freedom and democracy.
Relations between the two countries have existed for decades.
Even with a long history of mutual assistance and support between the two countries, the Indonesian government has expressed its wish to expand to other areas such as economic co-operation, trade and investment.
During a visit to Indonesia, facilitated by the Indonesian government and its embassy in Pretoria, the country’s foreign affairs department director-general Daniel Simanjuntak said they would like to see more trade with South Africa.
Speaking during a media briefing in the capital Jakarta last month, he said Indonesia hoped to attract more trade.
This will be a main focus during the Indonesian-African Infrastructure Dialogue it will host around August or September.
Simanjuntak cited high import tariffs imposed by South Africa as an impediment to good economic relations.
The Indonesian government would also like to see South Africa relaxing its visa requirements.
While South Africans can travel visa free to Indonesia, Indonesia does not enjoy the same benefits.
South Africans can travel to Indonesia for up to 30 days without a visa. Indonesians, however, said it was often very difficult to obtain a visa to enter South Africa.
The Indonesian government last year announced that it will set up a task force which would visit some African countries to try to strengthen economic ties to address barriers.
Simanjuntak said Indonesia was particularly hoping to have infrastructure co-operation with South Africa and to establish a preferential trade agreement.
The forum is a first for Indonesia to bring together governments, business and other stakeholders between Africa and this country to strengthen economic co-operation.
In an interview with the Pretoria News, Simanjuntak said politically Indonesia and South Africa have strong ties and are close.
“However, in the economic sector we are good, but we should not be complacent.
“We have to enhance economic co-operation in the area of trade and infrastructure, both ways.”
Simanjuntak expressed the hope that South Africa will soon be one of the destinations for close economic ties with Indonesia. South Africa was the only African state with which Indonesia had a strategic partnership in sub-Saharan Africa, he said.
The country’s Eximbank, under its treasury department, supports and facilitates collaboration between Indonesia and African countries. Eximbank chairperson Sinthya Roesly said the import-export bank could provide overseas investment financing, insurance and advice to local companies that wanted to expand overseas.
In terms of direct financing, Eximbank could also provide African buyers with buyer’s credit financing - either in a commercial scheme or concessional loan scheme.
South Africa is no stranger to Indonesian imports, such as the ever-popular instant noodles.
Fourteen Indonesian companies showcased their products last year at Africa’s Big Seven food and beverage trade show held at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand. It was hoped South Africa would soon have more of these products available in its shops.
Last year the Indonesian government also granted South Africa an additional three-year period to export horticultural products through Jakarta’s port of entry until April 11, 2021.
This was in relation to 14 South African export products, which include apples, citrus fruit, pears and peaches.
While Nigeria is the biggest African trade partner with Indonesia, South Africa is second. South Africa is also Indonesia’s second-biggest export destination after Egypt.
Another thing South Africa and Indonesia have in common is a love of bright, colourful fabric. Batik, Indonesia’s traditional clothing and the cornerstone of its massive textile industry, was something very close to the heart of Nelson Mandela. He lost his heart on this colourful cloth during his several visits to Indonesia.
Tata was seen wearing batik shirts ever since his first visit in 1994 shortly after he was elected president. The statesman placed this attire not only on the international map, but also made it a popular dress in South Africa.
Indonesia was a country close to Madiba’s heart. During another visit to Indonesia in 1997, he remarked that there were several common threads between the two nations, including unity in diversity.
He said at the time that Indonesia had already become one of South Africa’s most important trading partners in Southeast Asia. But Madiba remarked that the bilateral trade had only scratched the surface.
Madiba had expressed his admiration during his speech delivered more than 21 years ago for Indonesia’s efforts to unify a country with more than 17000 islands and where people use more than 300 languages.
Indonesia’s success recipe is evident if one visits that country. Nowhere is a beggar to be seen on the streets and the Indonesian government does all it can to financially and otherwise support small businesses.
The Pretoria News met the owners of two small thriving businesses in Bali, who expressed their wish to export their goods to South Africa. Husband and wife Wayan and Yuliani Sukhana are the owners of a spa range called Bali Tangi. Although already retired, they started the business with a government-supplied loan.
They export to the Maldives, but exporting to Africa, especially South Africa, is one of their dreams.
Alisha Hantoro is part of a small business which manufactures exquisite leather goods such as handbags and shoes. She also established the family business with a government loan from Eximbank.
Fashion icon Calvin Klein was one of her buyers.
She runs a small factory on one of the islands, where she provides work for about 50 locals, who manufacture the goods from raw products such as snake and crocodile skin.
Hantoro is one of many who hailed the Indonesian government’s initiative to make it possible to start a small business and to supply work to others.
Exporting her high-end market gear to South Africa is also a goal for her.