South Africa and Tunisia enjoy a healthy political and economic relationship. These bilateral ties were strengthened in 1996 during the inauguration of the Joint Bilateral Commission between South Africa and Tunisia held in Tunis. When the session was later on held again in April 2001, it focused on enhancing relations in trade, investment, tourism, health, environmental affairs, Arts and Culture, and political consultations regarding foreign relations.
South Africa and Tunisia have had a mutual political co-existence to the extent of the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki has a state visit in 12th and 13th October 2004, with 9 cabinet ministers in his entourage. In commercial relations, Tunisia acts as a link of South Africa to Northern markets, thus increasing the volume of trading activities. Nomalungelo Gina, South Africa’s trade and industry deputy minister, and Sabri Bachtoji, Tunisian secretary-general of state for foreign affairs recently met in Pretoria in efforts to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. Both government officials stressed the need for individual countries to create a business framework and a conducive environment for the business communities to trade.
“Our countries have enjoyed historically strong political ties but it is incumbent upon us to strengthen our economic ties and economic cooperation between our countries. As a government, we need to set up a framework and creating a conducive environment that will encourage our business communities to explore economic opportunities that are available in both countries,” Bachtoji said.
He also added that Tunisia is a hub of lucrative sectors that provide South Africa opportunities for taking advantage of through trade, tourism, partnerships, investment, and joint ventures. Some of the sectors that Bachtoji identified are agriculture, tourism, services, information, and communication technology. The two countries can link to explore the sectors together.
”South Africa also presents myriad opportunities for Tunisian companies in a variety of sectors. One of the areas of possible is the ocean cooperation which presents unlimited opportunities for investment,” said Gina. According to a report by the trade and industry department, trade between South Africa and Tunisia has experienced growth and decline over the last five years. For instance, in 2018 it amounted to R462 million and likewise in 2015/16, trade and investment figures were less than R500 million.
”The keenness of Tunisians to do business with South Africa was greatly demonstrated by the recent trade mission undertaken by Tunisian companies to the Eastern Cape which yielded positive results. One of the main outcomes was an MoU between East London IDZ (ELIDZ), Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) and the Industrial Development Zone (Coega IDZ) with their Tunisian counterpart, Zarzis Economic Activity Park. The negotiations of this agreement are ongoing and at an advanced stage, ” said Mr. Harold Hoyana, the South African Ambassador to Tunisia.
Since Tunisia and South Africa have enjoyed bilateral ties before, what’s remaining is strengthening those ties for trade and investment. The established opportunities for investment in Tunisia present a platform for development and growth. When the two countries’ business communities agree to cooperate, the economy will boost as well as productivity. South Africa and Tunisia are set by all means to create bilateral ties for trade and investment.