Address by President Jacob Zuma at the South Africa � Iran Business Forum on the occasion of His State Visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran

South African Ministers and Deputy Ministers

Iranian Ministers

Excellencies Ambassadors,

Captains of industry and commerce,

Senior officials,

Distinguished Guests

It is a great honour for me to address this important gathering of Captains of Industry, both from South Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I am confident that today’s meeting will further cement our economic co-operation ambitions as we enter a new era in our relationship.

I would like to extend a word of gratitude for the gracious hospitality extended to the South African delegation during our visit. We are indeed heartened by your generosity and warmth.

We would further like to commend the Islamic Republic of Iran for its constructive cooperation with the P5 + 1 in addressing the issues related to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program as well as its perseverance and dedication towards achieving the compliance measures levelled by the International Atomic Energy Agency in attaining a nuclear-related sanctions free Islamic Republic of Iran.

I am of the firm belief that this tenacity and perseverance demonstrated by the people and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue resolutely as you reintegrate into the global economy and take your rightful place on the global stage.

At the outset, as we reflect on our bilateral relationship, allow me this opportunity to express our gratitude for the role the Islamic Republic of Iran played in supporting South Africa’s liberation struggle and for being a strong ally internationally and in the Non-Aligned Movement.

To this end, we commit to the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to grow our cooperation at different levels towards the achievement of our joint economic goals.

South Africa is a reliable partner that is committed to an equitable economic partnership with the Islamic Republic of Iran on a win-win basis.

Ladies and Gentlemen, South Africa has categorically condemned the imposition of unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and applauds the recent lifting of many of these sanctions.

We believe the conclusion of the nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 enables our Iranian brothers and sisters to rebuild their economic future. We are here to partner with you in realizing such a future.

The imposition of sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran impacted negatively on our own economic development agenda as the Islamic Republic of Iran was one of the biggest suppliers of crude oil to South Africa prior to the imposition of sanctions.

We, however, continued our engagements within the Joint Commission, the cornerstone of our bilateral relationship, which was established in 1995.

In addition to this, owing to the strategic importance of the South Africa-Iran relationship, we tasked the Deputy Ministers of the respective Foreign Ministries to formalize a Working Group.

The mandate of this particular structure was expanded to not only realize the pre-sanction trade levels but also to significantly increase the quantum and quality of our economic engagements.

As a further demonstration of our commitment towards the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I had requested my Deputy President to undertake a visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran in November 2015 accompanied by a formidable business delegation from South Africa.

The visit yielded much fruit, with the signing of the following three Memoranda of Understanding:

These are the following;

A Trilateral Memorandum of Understanding between MINTEK, the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organisation and Iran Mineral Processing Research Centre;

An MoU between the Financial Intelligence Centre and the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Islamic Republic of Iran on Information Exchange concerning Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Financing Terrorism; and

The last MoU between the Securities and Exchange Organisation and the Financial Services Board in Relation to Assistance and Mutual Cooperation in the Capital Markets Sector.

Distinguished Guests, we return yet again to the Islamic Republic of Iran with a renewed sense of hope and vigour.

I am convinced that we will be able to devise pragmatic solutions towards our bilateral economic challenges as we embark on rebuilding our relationship and look forward to a more robust and engaging trade relationship going forward.

In pursuance of this, I have been accompanied by a large group of South African companies in an array of sectors including, amongst others, agriculture; telecommunications; financial services; mining; chemicals and energy.

The sizeable delegation aptly articulates the seriousness that we accord to strengthening our trade, investment and economic bilateral relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen

South Africa views the Islamic Republic of Iran as a strategic trading partner within the Middle East and Central Asian regions. Within the bilateral sphere, South Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran share a long historical relationship.

Total trade, however, has unfortunately been falling over the past decade owing to, amongst others, the non-existence of banking relations between South Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran and the various sanctions imposed by the West.

As of 2015, total trade between our two sides stood at three hundred and fifty eight million rands (R358 million).

You would agree, Ladies and Gentlemen, that this figure does not reflect the optimal capabilities of our two economies.

I am pleased to announce that earlier today, in recognition of this, His Excellency President Rouhani and I agreed to increase non-oil trade to a billion dollars by 2020. It is imperative that we focus on diversifying our respective trade baskets in favour of value-added trade.

This would add much impetus towards addressing issues of job creation as well as skills and technology transfer in both our countries.

In this regard, I welcome the Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Joint Investment Committee which puts in place, a measured and pragmatic form of cooperation.

I am of the firm belief that these measures will enable us to significantly increase our levels of trade.

I believe the MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Trade and Industry that we signed today, which was one of eight MoUs that were signed, and the accompanying Roadmap provides a good departure point for strengthening our economic cooperation. It aptly outlines the objectives that both our sides wish to achieve.

I, however, believe that this would not be optimally realized in the absence of your involvement, as the Captains of Industry. It is in this regard that I welcome the establishment of the envisaged South Africa-Iran Business Council. It is imperative that the Council members streamline their planning so as to complement the objectives of the Roadmap.

This would translate into tangible deliverables and would add further impetus towards expanding on the economic ties between our respective business communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

As we embark on this journey of re-building our trade ties, allow me to reassure you, that South Africa is well positioned to deliver on its commitments as outlined in the various agreements entered into by the different Ministries.

South Africa has an open economy and provides a sound business case for investment and profit.

Our country offers a diversified base of industrial sectors and has a large number of competitive industries, abundant natural resources and well-developed transport and logistical infrastructure. Our financial systems are stable and we have a sound constitution and institutional framework to protect property rights.

South Africa offers many opportunities, not only for access to a growing domestic market, but also as a platform to the dynamically growing markets of the African continent.

Investors enjoy robust protection in South Africa, comparable to the highest international standards. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rates South Africa as among the least restrictive jurisdictions for investment.

South Africa is the leading regional hub location for companies seeking to establish themselves in the African region.

Our socio-economic roadmap, the National Development Plan, provides a coherent, comprehensive and pragmatic plan to transform our economy.

It also provides a plan for faster economic growth that is more inclusive, thereby addressing the triple challenges, of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

This Plan enables investors to know exactly what we want to achieve, and what type of South Africa we are building.

South Africa invites the Captains of Industry from the Islamic Republic of Iran to explore partnerships and investment in a few areas.

These include building the agriculture and agro-processing value-chain, unlocking the potential of SMMEs, joint cooperation in energy projects and growing the Ocean Economy amongst others.

Another exciting area for partnership is Operation Phakisa, which is a strategy aimed at unlocking the economic growth potential stemming from South Africa’s vast ocean coastline.

Operation Phakisa consists of the following four work streams: (1) marine transport and manufacturing; (2) offshore oil and gas exploration; (3) aquaculture; and (4) marine protection services and ocean governance.

These work streams offer many opportunities for partnerships between South African and Iranian companies.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Iran’s observer status within the African Union augurs well for our ambitions of advancing the economic agenda on the African continent.

South Africa is pleased that Iran has set up an Africa Task Force to increase commerce with Africa. We encourage Iranian business to intensify their interaction with Africa, which is now widely recognised as a promising new growth pole in the world economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we as Government and the business community are here to reassure you that South Africa is open for business.

We wish to confirm and reaffirm our sincere commitment towards partnering with the people and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The time is indeed ripe for us to consolidate our trade and investment ties as we walk hand-in-hand along this journey which holds much promise for the economic emancipation of our peoples.

I thank you!

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa