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A delegation from Vietnam, led by the vice-president, is in town to forge trade and business links with local entrepreneurs.
LOCAL entrepreneurs should pursue business and investment opportunities in Vietnam as part of growing bilateral trade and economic relations between South Africa and the Southeast Asian country.

This was heard by delegates from Gauteng metros, local businesspeople and a large contingent of Vietnamese businesspeople at a Vietnam High-Business Delegation meeting on Tuesday, 3 May at Park Inn, Sandton. The Vietnamese group was led by Nguyễn Thi Doan, the vice-president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The meeting was organised by the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Vietnam Business Forum to promote economic co-operation between Vietnam and South Africa.

It was attended by scores of Vietnamese businesspeople in the construction, pharmaceuticals, tourism, textiles, mining, agriculture, petrochemicals and other sectors, who want to establish new business contacts in South Africa.

The Asian country hopes to expand investment in science and technology, education, agriculture and a green economy, and jointly to cope with climate change, food security, public health and poverty.

Vietnam is the world’s third largest exporter of rice; it has steel, coal, food processing, chemical, fertiliser, glass, footwear and paper industries. It has natural resources like coal, bauxite, phosphate, gas deposits, manganese and chromate.

Apart from gemstones and precious metals, Vietnamese goods with high export value to South Africa include footwear, garments and textiles, coffee and rice. The country has been exporting cellphones to South Africa since 2009.

Doan Xuan Hung, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, said despite difficulties posed by the world economic crunch, Vietnam’s national economy, especially the trade sector, had achieved impressive results. He urged entrepreneurs to invest in and explore the vast trade and business opportunities his country. “Collaborations would enhance the economies of both countries,” he said.

Vietnam had five new products that had an export value of more than US$1 billion this year – cashew nuts, petroleum, plastic products, cable and electric wires, and transportation, Hung said, encouraging locals to find a niche.

South Africa’s international trade amounts to $176,7 billion or 63,7 percent of its overall GDP. The two-way trade turnover between Vietnam and South Africa in 2010 reached $640,31 million – 26,7 percent higher than 2009 and three times higher than in 2005. Of this, exports were valued at $487,76 million and imports at $152,55 million. Vietnamese exports to South Africa are growing at a higher rate than imports. However, the country estimated imports would increase.

Delegates talked about the advantages and disadvantages of doing business in Africa, the contents of import-export contracts, methods of preventing risks in trading and forging private partnerships.

Issues like underdevelopment, inconsistent laws and policies, lack of adequate infrastructure and the banking system were also discussed, with Vietnamese businesses saying that such hurdles made it difficult to do business with and widen co-operation with African partners, and penetrate the African market.

Vietnam-Africa trade turnover increased from $15,5 million in 1991 to $2,56 billion in 2010. With high purchasing power and great demand for imports, Africa was a significant potential trading market for Vietnam, Hung noted.

Vietnam had developed a manuscript to promote trade, which explained African markets, market potential, import demand, present imports, business opportunities and risks alerts.

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