Durban High Commissioner Sirisena Amarasekara and Trade Officer Sanjeewa Bandara, met the Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber Palesa Phili and Head of International Trade Dumile Khubone during an official visit. The Durban Chamber of Commerce is one of the oldest business chambers in the African region having more than 150 years of history and located in the logistic hub of Southern Africa.
The key focus of the discussion was to enhance the bilateral trade and tourism between the two counties with special attention to the logistic, boat building and apparel sector business development of Sri Lanka. The High Commissioner highlighted that the existing trade of $ 250 million annual average is stagnating for the last five to six years and limited to the selected sectors of both countries while developing and diversifying the export portfolios with other parts of the world. The Sri Lankan export basket to South Africa comprises traditional products such as tea, apparel, rubber and coconut products and South Africa dominates in the export of coal to the power generation in Norachcholai.
With the above understanding, the High Commissioner invited the South African importers and exporters who are having a strong trade with the Indian sub-continent and East Asian countries such as China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia to utilise the Colombo Free Zone for the operations of regional and global distribution, entrepot trade, multi-country consolidation and groupage services, operations of the quality assurance, storing and assembling. The new developments of the Colombo Free Zone offer a range of value-added services at par with the regional competitors.
Since South Africa is well-performing in the boat manufacturing industry the High Commissioner proposed to develop a technical and marketing cooperation among the leading manufactures to enhance the existing capacity of the industry. Also, it is encouraged to work closely with the fishing and leisure boat markets in South Africa to find new buyers in this region and other parts of the world. The garment manufacturing industry is one of the key employment opportunity providers in South Africa and therefore the Government is facilitating this sector as a national priority.
Also, South Africa maintains a 40% to 45% duty on the imported garments to make an additional cushion to the local manufacturers. Therefore, it was suggested to seek the opportunities to export the semi-finished products to South Africa or SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries for further processing.
The CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce suggested seeking opportunities of capitalising on the seasonal excess/shortage of the supply of vegetables and fruits of both countries. Specially the citrus fruits, potatoes and onions are available at a competitive price in South Africa. Also, during the year, South Africa imports some tropical fruits and vegetables to fill the market demand. To discuss this point further, the High Commissioner agreed in principle to arrange a meeting with the fruits and vegetable importers and exporters of both countries.