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“The three priority areas are renewable energy, the development of our countries as gateways to our respective continental hinterlands, as well as infrastructure investment. Although our trade with each other is small due to the logistics involved, I believe that in these three areas there is scope to build significantly in our trade and investment relations,” he said.
Last year South Africa exported 41.5 million rand worth of goods to Kazakhstan. The main export sectors were machinery at 18.4 million rand, followed by cars at 7 million rand and then fruit and vegetables at 3.6 million rand.
Kazakhstan’s exports to South Africa of 21.5 million rand are dominated by chemical exports of 19.3 million rand. No other sector exported more than one million rand last year.
“Kazakhstan and South Africa are at similar stages of developing our renewable energy sector. We have had three rounds of tenders for independent power producers for renewable energy, while Kazakhstan is about to launch their first round. We can share our knowledge of what business model works best, who the most reliable consultants are, and what we can do to improve energy efficiency,” Soni said.
Devan Pillay from LDM is one South African business person at the Astana Economic Forum who is looking to share his knowledge in energy efficiency.
“South Africa has positioned itself as gateway to Africa with its world class transport and logistics infrastructure. In the same way, Kazakhstan is a gateway to central Asia, especially with the development of the New Silk Road,” Soni noted.
The South African embassy, together with embassies of Brazil, India and Indonesia will be hosting a panel session on Thursday at the Astana Economic Forum on expanding trade links. The other two BRICS members, China and Russia, share a border with Kazakhstan, so their trade with Kazakhstan is well developed.
Although Kazakhstan shares a 6,846 kilometer border with Russia, Russia does not feature in the top five countries with which Kazakhstan trades. The top spot in both imports and exports is occupied by China, which shares a border of only 1 533 kilometers with Kazakhstan. China received 19% of Kazakhstan’s exports, mostly oil and gas, while it supplied 28% of its imports across a wide range of consumer and capital goods.
“We are watching with interest the development of trade corridors from central Asia to the south via Turkey and Iran, as that will give us more transport options into this region,” the South African Ambassador said.
Soni is ambassador to Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as to Kazakhstan. He visits the other countries on a regular basis.
“The third area of opportunity is in infrastructure investment. Our state-owned logistics company Transnet recently awarded a tender to build more than 1,000 locomotives. The expertise and capacity we build will then allow us to export locomotives to this region, while in turn, there are opportunities for Kazakh companies to export coaches and wagons to South Africa. I believe that closer co-operation between our respective state-owned companies will encourage private sector players to follow in their footsteps,” he said.
State-owned defence equipment supplier Denel is keen to expand bilateral ties and will be present at the Kazakhstan Defence Expo “Kadex 2014”, which is taking place at the same time as the Astana Economic Forum.
“Our presence here at the Astana Economic Forum is to highlight the fact that global finance cannot ignore a whole continent. That is why we will be holding a large gathering at our embassy on Sunday to celebrate Africa Day,” Soni concluded.
Africa Day celebrates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of the African Union, on 25 May 1963. The current African Union Commission chairperson is the former South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Helmo Preuss in Astana, Kazakhstan for The BRICS Post