Skills development, job creation and the promotion of small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs) is imperative to South Africa’s economy and should complement investment flows, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said on Tuesday.
Addressing delegates from Estonia at the Estonia business forum in South Africa, hosted by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in Johannesburg, she noted that, Estonian companies should be encouraged to invest in skills development and technology transfer programmes that support South Africa’s national priorities.
She highlighted that Estonia’s economy was made up of 90% SMMEs, noting that South Africa “needs to wake up to the reality of the importance SMMEs have on the economy.
“Working together [with Estonia], we can find ways to grow SMMEs to positively contribute to our economy. I’d like to encourage our SMMEs to be more innovative so that they can attract more foreign direct investment,” she said.
Zulu pointed out that the National Development Plan (NDP) outlined South Africa’s development trajectory, focusing on areas such as skills development, youth employment, manufacturing and local beneficiation.
“I’m glad that South Africa is beginning to revive its relationship with Estonia, which is long overdue. The relationship between the countries will enable them to support business, in line with the NDP.”
She noted that Estonia could especially help drive growth in South Africa’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector, as it was a world leader in this space.
“The two countries must explore potential cooperation in ICT, science and technology, which will be of mutual benefit,” Zulu said.
Also speaking at the business forum, Estonian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Väino Reinart said bilateral economic activity with South Africa had been relatively limited.
“Our yearly trade with South Africa last year was limited to €10-million. The distance between the two countries should not be an influencing factor. Looking at trade statistics, Estonia’s trade with Mexico, for example, is close to €200-million, 20 times more than with South Africa,” he said.
Reinart noted, however, that, politically, South Africa was not “far away” from Estonia.
“We have had close political relations with South Africa and have worked together at many different international institutions. I believe now is the time to ensure that our political relationship will also translate into business transactions with South Africa.
He added that there were several Estonian companies in South Africa that focused on the development of cross-border ICT solutions and services.
“South Africa is the obvious partner for promoting digital online services,” Reinart said.