- South African Vice President Jacob Zuma is currently on a visit to Benin with an aim of strengthening the economic and political cooperation between the two countries. In Cotonou, he was received by Beninese President Mathieu Kérékou and spoke to the Benin Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Mr Zuma today told Beninese business leaders that the already fraternal relations between South Africa and Benin were in the process of deepening even further. This, he said, primarily was to happen within the context of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and through private sector efforts.
The South African Vice President emphasised on the importance of NEPAD regarding foreign investors but also when it came to enhanced trade between member countries. NEPAD and the African Union were now "doing all they can" to restore peace and stability in Africa, something that automatically would enhance trade and economic growth, he said.
- The African business sector cannot be bystanders in these efforts, Mr Zuma told Beninese businessmen. "We urge you to partner with us in rebuilding the continent. We urge the African business sector to play its part in promoting economic growth and development," he said, adding that in particular infrastructure development projects should be of interest to small and medium enterprises.
When it came to direct economic interaction between the two countries, Mr Zuma was lobbying for the businesses of South Africa, the continent's leading economy. "The areas of transport and infrastructure development, tourism, food processing systems, as well as information and communication technology, are but a few sectors in which Benin and South Africa can co-operate," said the Vice President.
These are sectors where South Africa stands strong and is seeking to expand throughout the African continent. Mr Zuma told the Beninese traders that "South Africa may offer expertise in the above-mentioned areas."
Meanwhile, said the South African Vice President, "Benin has a wide range of products that South Africa may need, such as cotton, cement and agricultural products. Together we can therefore find concrete projects to cooperate on for mutual benefit."
Mr Zuma earlier on the day had been discussing political and economic cooperation with Beninese President Kérékou. The two concluded that "our two countries have a clear vision of how we can take this cooperation forward."
Apart from referring to NEPAD and the "priority given to creating conducive conditions for the development of the private sector," neither Mr Zuma nor President Kérékou however were able to give details on this "clear vision".
South Africa and Benin have had fraternal relations since the apartheid regime fell apart ten years ago. Benin was among the many African states supporting the South African liberation struggle. A cooperation agreement between the two countries was signed last year, enhancing bilateral relations. Vice President Zuma's visit to Benin was a follow-up on this agreement.
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