Bangladesh - South Africa Bilateral Relations
Bilateral relations between Bangladesh and South Africa are best described as warm, friendly and engaging. Successive Bangladesh governments extended their staunch support during the African National Congress's (ANC) struggle against the apartheid and that has been the hallmark of Bangladesh-South Africa bilateral relations. The two countries have been cooperating with each other at bilateral as well as multilateral levels, through international organizations like UN, NAM, Commonwealth and IOR-ARC etc since inception of diplomatic ties back in 1994.
Diplomatic Relations between Bangladesh and South Africa were initiated during President Mandela's inauguration in 1994, following the first non-racial general elections in South Africa. The then Bangladesh Foreign Minister attended the inauguration. Formal diplomatic relations between the two countries were opened on 10 September 1994. Bangladesh Resident Mission was opened on 27 February 1995 in Pretoria. South African High Commission in Colombo is concurrently looking after Bangladesh.
South African President Mr. Nelson R. Mandela visited Bangladesh from 25 to 27 March 1997 to attend the Silver Jubilee Celebration of Bangladesh's Independence. During the visit, a Declaration of Intent (DOI) was signed expressing resolve of both countries to explore all possible avenues to expand and deepen the extent of political and economic cooperation between Bangladesh and South Africa.
Hon’ble Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni, MP visited South Africa from 8-10 May 2009 at the invitation of the Government of South Africa in order to attend the inauguration ceremony of the 4th Democratically elected President of the country, Mr. Jacob Zuma. During her visit she handed over two congratulatory messages from the Hon’ble President and the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh addressed to the President Zuma and held bilaterals with the Foreign Minister, Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Deputy Foreign Minister, Ms. Sue Vander Merwe and the Head of International Affairs of African National Congress (ANC), Mr. Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim (presently Deputy Foreign Minister). On the sidelines of the event Hon’ble Foreign Minister also had meetings with the Ministers and Heads of Delegations of Sudan, Libya, Zambia and Mali. Various bilateral issues were discussed in the meetings with a view to strengthening the existing bilateral relations between Bangladesh and those countries.
A 9-member delegation from the provincial government of Kwa Zulu Natal of South Africa visited Bangladesh in June 2008 to gather first-hand experience of Bangladesh’s success in the field of micro credit. The First Lady of South Africa, Mrs. Zenete Mbeki visited Bangladesh twice to study the micro-lending programmes.
There is no formal manpower export agreement with South Africa. However, about forty thousand Bangladeshi expatriates live in South Africa. Most of them are engaged in small businesses and the majority of them are undocumented. A few hundred Bangladeshis living in South Africa are professionals, specially doctors, engineers, architects, accountants, etc.
Defence Officers from South Africa regularly participate in the Staff Course of Defence Services Command and Staff College, Mirpur, Dhaka.
Trade Relations between Bangladesh and South Africa
Trade relations between Bangladesh and the Republic of South Africa have been on the rise over the past few years, though far from realizing the potential. The Government of Bangladesh is working along with trade agencies in South Africa to promote trade between the two countries. Bangladesh has been participating in the biggest annual trade exhibition in South Africa for the last few years through the Export Promotion Bureau and also at private levels by various enterprises. Bangladesh's participation in the exhibition has helped a lot to expose her products to the South African importers, buyers and also to the participating enterprises of various African countries. During the exhibition, Bangladeshi companies had the opportunity to contact with potential importers of South Africa and at the same time got a number of spot orders. South African traders are importing Readymade Garments from Bangladesh at private levels. Bangladesh Mission in South Africa participated in the Asia+ Expo 2007 to exhibit Bangladeshi products, where more than 20 countries participated. The trade fair was held in Kimberley (Northern Cape Province) from 23-25 August 2007.
Volume of trade is on the upward trend and Bangladesh Mission in South Africa, for the last few years has been able to exceed the export target fixed by the Government for last five years. From 20 May-02 June 2013 a trade delegation lead by Hon’ble Minister for Commerce visited Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique in order to enhance the export of Bangladeshi products to Africa. DG (Africa) was a part of the 15 member delegation. During the visit there was a trade seminar regarding trade potentiality in Africa and a meeting was arranged with the concern officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of those countries.
A draft Trade Agreement between the two countries has been finalized, which is yet to be signed by the two countries. [The final draft of the agreement was sent to South Africa on 26-5-09 for their views/comments. Since then no further communication was received from South African side.] It is hoped that the said agreement would strengthen institutional framework to strengthen bilateral trade between the two countries in future.
The High Commission in Pretoria has been making persistent efforts to encourage the potential South African business communities to import /buy Bangladeshi products, especially, jute, jute-goods, ready-made garments, handicrafts, leather, leather-goods, chemical fertilizer, stuffed toys, women's apparels, caps, hats, plastic wares, melamine products, ceramic products, toiletries, sea-food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products etc. In this regard the Mission continues to provide the South African business entrepreneurs with necessary contact details and information of the Bangladeshi exporters/manufacturers.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bangladesh (FBCCI) and Durban Chamber of Commerce in 1999 in order to make closer commercial, economic and investment relations between the two countries.
South Africa, being a flourishing democracy, has opened up its economy to the rest of the world with the aim of strengthening economic relations with African and Asian countries and specially, with the LDCs. South Africa is gradually scaling down its tariff rates and is easing non-tariff barriers on many importable items which would facilitate ways for expanded trade between Bangladesh and South Africa. South Africa's investment in the field of gas, oil, coal, and mineral exploration in Bangladesh could be considered as prospective because of its technology and expertise. Besides, setting up of production ventures in few selected fields with buy back arrangements and with the provisions to re export to third countries may also be considered prospective. Since the South African companies are now shifting their business in the developing economies by relocating their production units, Bangladesh could well be regarded as a prospective area of relocation. On the other hand South Africa could be used as a launching pad for the Bangladeshi commodities to enter into the markets of other African countries, because of its geographic location and influence on the economies of other African countries.
It may also be mentioned that South Africa enjoys the advantages derived from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which was promulgated by the United States and provided opportunities of duty and quota free access of goods from 35 Sub-Saharan countries to the US market. AGOA also provided scope for relocation of industries/factories from other countries to South Africa and other Sub-Saharan countries and export their products to the U.S. There exists vast opportunities for the Bangladesh RMG manufacturers to avail of the advantages of the AGOA by relocating their manufacturing units in South Africa.
Recently South Africa has imposed restrictions on importing garments from China, one of the major trading partners of the country. Instead, they are looking at sources like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia etc. Thus it would be an opportunity for Bangladesh to penetrate into the South African market more vigorously.
Bangladesh has been successful in achieving its export target to South Africa for the last few years. During FY 2010-2011 Bangladesh exported USD 56.20 million worth of goods to South Africa against its import of USD 38 million. Import from South Africa is also increasing day by day. Unlike the previous years, balance of payment is now in favor of South Africa.
Figures in Million US$
Source: Exports and Imports Controller’s Office
Our High Commission in South Africa is constantly pursuing to enhance exports from Bangladesh. We believe that the volume of export will increase in the coming days.
Waiver of Visa for Officials and Diplomats
During successive meetings of the Bangladesh High Commissioner with the Home Minister of South Africa in the last two years, the Home Minister agreed, in principle, to issue visa upon arrival or exempt visas for ministers, dignitaries and other Bangladeshi senior officials visiting South Africa on official purpose. Government of South Africa is seriously considering our proposal. The decision has to be taken solely by the Department of Home Affairs of South Africa. Our Mission in South Africa is in touch with the issue.
1) Trade Agreement (The final draft of the agreement was forwarded to South Africa on 26-5-09 for their views/comments. Since then no further communication was received from South African side.)
2) Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation (First round of negotiation on this agreement was held in Pretoria in 15-12-2000. NBR has requested to hold the second round of negotiation in Dhaka. MOFA opined that the second round of negotiation may be held in Dhaka during the Senior Officials’ Meeting)
3) MoU on Cooperation in the fields of Arts and Culture is pending with South African Government. (The final draft of the MoU was forwarded to the South African Government on 06-11-08 for their views/opinions. Since then no further communication has been received from the South African side.)
4) Investment Protection Agreement. (The draft agreement was forwarded to South African Government on 23-5-11 for their views/opinions. Since then no further communication has been received from the South African side.)
5) MoU on Air Transport between Bangladesh and South Africa
South African Government is keen to conduct an MoU on air Transport with Bangladesh and sent a draft MoU for opinion/views upon the draft. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has forwarded the draft MoU to Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism for their views/opinions.