On Friday 12 April 2013 the Iraqi Ambassador to South Africa, Dr Hisham Al-Alawi, engaged with Nelson Mandela Bay business owners at The Club on Bird Street, to elaborate on the exciting business opportunities currently opening up between Iraq and South Africa.
The Iraqi Ambassador previously reached out to the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber in September 2012 to establish and open the channels required to enable business in Nelson Mandela Bay to benefit from the efforts already made within the Department of Trade and Industry.
The ambassador’s visit to the province and Port Elizabeth formed part of a series of engagements in South Africa on a national and provincial level to strengthen the relationship between Iraq and South Africa, and to explore trade, investment and development opportunities.
November 2012 saw Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies sign a bilateral agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation with his Iraqi counterpart, HE Khairullah Hasan Babakr, in Cape Town. The bilateral agreement was signed between the two countries to enhance trade and investment, and identified the industrial sector, electricity production, housing and tourism, among others, as areas for co-operation.
Explaining the drive from Iraq to build closer ties with South Africa, Al-Alawi emphasized the similarities between the two countries, especially in terms of the challenges faced and the government focus on job creation, poverty alleviation, security and the provision of health care. They advocate closer collaboration between the two countries, and believe that partnership will reap positive results in the business sector. Iraq has seen a substantial reduction in its rates of unemployment, down from 50% in 2003 to between 15% and 18% in 2012.
According to the Ambassador, Iraq is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with a burgeoning middle class. The country’s pro-business environment include freedom from tax for investors for the first ten years of operation within the country, access to a highly-skilled and educated workforce, and opportunities for beneficial local partnerships.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO believes that Business Chambers in each of the provinces have a critical role to play in showcasing and facilitating the opportunities available for business. “The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with our counterpart in Iraq, which will lay the foundation for business in our region to seek opportunities in Iraq,” he says. Similar MOUs have been signed by the Cape Chamber of Commerce, the Durban Chamber, and the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry.