South Africa Remains Key Market For Canadian Goods, Services In Africa – Interview


The 17th Toronto Global Forum was held under the theme ‘Fostering Economic Resilience’ from 11-13 October 2023 in Toronto Canada. According to reports, the forum gathered over 170 speakers and more than 3000 attendees from all over the world. The central themes at the Toronto Global Forum revolved around the following  pillars: Global Economy, Infrastructure, Finance, Innovation, Energy and Sustainable Development.

Through its ability to foster connections and collaboration, the Toronto Global Forum stands as an exceptional and distinctive platform bringing together decision makers from all spheres of society to tackle the most pressing issues of the changing times. From its launch in 2006 that included only a small number of sessions condensed into one day, the Toronto Global Forum has grown to a fully packed three-day event that has gained international recognition.

Brand South Africa in collaboration with the South African High Commission in Canada, and the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) represented South Africa at the 17th Edition of The Toronto Global Forum. The overall aim of South Africa’s participation is to promote South Africa’s green economy as an investment destination for North American Institutional Investors. 

South Africa continues to stand at the forefront of influencing the global agenda on investing in the global green economy as a pathway to sustainable development. The delegation actively participated in a panel discussion on 13 October 2023, which focused on giving an overview of South Africa as an investment destination for major infrastructure and decarbonised/green projects.

After the three-day business forum, our media executive Kester Kenn Klomegah had an indepth discussion with Lefentse Nokaneng, General Manager for Research at Brand South Africa, over aspects of the current bilateral relations between South Africa and Canada. Here are the interview excerpts:

Q: After participating in the business forum in Toronto, what are the popular sentiments about exploring business and investment with Canadians?

Lefentse Nokaneng: South Africa’s participation at the Toronto Global Forum is part of Brand South Africa’s mandate to leverage global platforms such as these to promote South Africa as a favourable trade and investment destination. 

South Africa and Canada have maintained bilateral relations since the advent of democracy in South Africa with increasing trade between the two countries. One positive sentiment about exploring business and investment with Canada is that it is a stable and prosperous country with a strong economy and diverse business opportunities. While Canadians, in turn, have shown deep interest in South Africa as an emerging market with abundant natural resources and a diversified economy which serves as a gateway into the African Continental Free Trade Agreement Area (AfCFTA). South Africa’s infrastructure drive and transition into a green economy offers investment opportunities for Canadian Pension Fund Managers. 

Q: By the way, how do you estimate the economic and investment potentials in Canada for the Republic of South Africa, and possibly southern African region?

Lefentse Nokaneng: Being one of the most diverse and largest economies in Africa, South Africa stands as a key market for Canadian goods and services on the continent. In 2022, the bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and South Africa reached US$2.77 billion. This trade comprised $473.3 million in exports from Canada and US$2.3 billion in imports from South Africa. In consultation with the Business Council of Canada, we project that export opportunities for Canada in Africa could reach US$6.6 billion by 2030. This would represent a US$4.1 billion increase in Canada’s export performance from the recorded average of US$2.5 billion over the 2016-2018 period.

Canada is an investor in South Africa. Canadian investments focus on the mineral and mining sector, as well as transportation, food processing, hospitality, and information and communication technologies. South Africa’s infrastructure investment drive and Just Energy Transition represents an opportunity for Canada to increase its investment in South Africa. 

Q: What steps have, both Canada and South Africa, taken taken previously to forge economic cooperation? Have that changed in tapping the existing opportunities for cooperation with South Africa?

Lefentse Nokaneng: The scope of bilateral relations between Canada and South Africa is extensive with cooperation extending into the areas of foreign policy, development, energy, science and technology, agriculture, mining and mineral resources/equipment, education, arts and culture, and transport.

Canada and South Africa hold strategic annual bilateral consultations that review the work of working groups that cover the topics listed above, which cover issues as diverse as foreign policy, trade and investment, innovation, science and technology, the environment and climate change.

Bilateral cooperation between Canada and South Africa is coordinated within the framework of a Declaration of Intent on Strengthened Cooperation, which was signed in 2003 and laid the foundation for the Annual Consultations (AC). The AC is co-chaired by the Director-General of International Relations and Cooperation and the Deputy Minister of Global Affairs respectively.

Concerted dialogue occurs with Canada’s High Commission in South Africa directed towards deepening the relationship between Canada and South Africa, especially around economic diplomacy. It is conceded on both sides that there is a need for a ‘reset’ of the relationship.  

It is expected that Canada’s Africa Engagement Framework will inform its economic engagement strategy with Africa. The Canadians have been paying particular attention to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement Area (AfCFTA) and will seek to benefit from the AfCFTA as a means to diversify its trade away from the United States and China.  

Q: Can we also talk a bit about Canada’s tourism to South Africa despite the geographical distance? And finally what potentials are there to develop this sphere of business especially with the changing global situation?

Lefentse Nokaneng: Globally tourism has grappled with recovery post-Covid 19. We have witnessed an 82% increase in tourist arrivals from Canada. In 2022, tourist arrival numbers from Canada were 18,000 and in 2023 this grew to 34,000. While the recorded growth is significant, it still represents only half of the tourist visitors from the United States to South Africa. This signals that there is still much work to be done to attract more visitors from Canada. Those that have visited South Africa love its beautiful scenery, cultural experiences, favourable weather and South African’s affordability as a tourist destination. 

Canadian passport holders are able to travel visa free to South Africa for up to 90 days on business and we intend to capitalise on that to drive increased tourism into South Africa for those seeking to come to the country for business and leisure – Bleisure travel. 

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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