Representatives of South African and Greek companies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to today’s full day conference “Doing Business with South Africa” that is organised with the aim to promote bilateral business relations between the two countries. It is also an honor for me to chair this opening session, representing the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), a session where the presence of both His Excellency the Ambassador of South Africa Mr. Momberg and the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece Mr Stylianides underlines the catalytic importance of diplomatic and governmental involvement in the unconstrained progress of the business community.
SEV International, the International Affairs’ arm of SEV, aims to actively contribute in strengthening and supporting the presence of Greek companies in global markets. Our goal is to create awareness, to identify opportunities for expanding trade, to intermediate in bringing together business partners and to facilitate synergies and investment flows between the parties. At the same time, we envisage to promote the attractiveness of our country as a destination for foreign investments.
South Africa holds a leading economic and political role in the overall development of the African continent. The hard times of apartheid are behind us and institutions like the Africa Union, the New Cooperation for the Development of Africa (NEPAD) and the successful World Conference Against Racism and the Earth Summit have brought the African continent a step closer to the elimination of famine, violence and xenophobia. Moreover, the South African/European Union Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) aims to position South Africa strategically to optimize the economic and trade opportunities presented by the European Union and the region.
On the other hand, Greece enjoys a strategic geopolitical position, as a gateway to Southeastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean, and has accumulated an extensive experience to the region markets.
All the above, in combination with the over-a-century long presence of the Hellenic Community in the African Continent, open new horizons for Greece and South Africa to become the ideal partners.
For the period 1999-2002, Greece was the 12th largest investor to South Africa. Nonetheless, I’m afraid that not many Greek businessmen know enough about the outlook of South African economy. A clear answer to all our questions will be offered today.
We recall President Mbeki’s appeal to Greek investors during his visit to Athens in late February. We are also aware of the new generation of businessmen who are now active in South Africa and may be credible partners for win-win cooperations.
A proof of the above is the significant increase of Greek investments in South Africa in the last 2 years. Important Greek companies have taken the risk to expand their activities in the South African market, expecting to capitalize on the advantages offered by the structure of the local economy. In the course of the day, we will have the opportunity to hear testimony of such cases.
Opportunities abound, prospects are fairly good. The South African investment presence in Greece is primary represented by the operation of digital via-satellite broadcasting of pay TV programme and of the Multiplex cinemas. The remarkable success of both of them embodies a highly attractive incentive for even more investment to come.
It is without a doubt that the dialogue we are opening today on economic relations and cooperation between Greece and South Africa will significantly contribute to the exchange of valuable information on where we stand, what are the potentials, which are the future perspectives. By the end of the day, I am sure that we will all have a better overview on why and how parties from both countries could and should join forces.
Our goal as SEV International is to identify today the areas of mutual interest for a fruitful cooperation between Greek and South African entrepreneurs. We can set the framework within which Greek and South African economies can pursue different policies to advance common goals. We have both a lot to offer, as I am sure you will hear in the course of the day. Let’s work together!
At this point, I would like to thank the organizers for their initiative in hosting today’s event, in particular Ambassador Momberg for his valuable support and to kindly ask him to take the floor.