Zuma to visit Russia

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma will later this week pay an official visit to Russia as part of his stepped-up trade offensive aimed at members of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China).

The visit scheduled from 4-6 August follows an invitation by Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev, says the International Relations and Co-Operation Department.

Zuma has already visited Brazil and India and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also visited South Africa on his Africa tour in July.

"The visit takes place within the context of strengthening North-South cooperation with the aim of consolidating cooperation and partnership on culture, education and skills development," spokesperson Saul Molobi explained.

During the visit to Russia, Zuma plans to sign high-tech contracts such as a MoU between the South African Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency on cooperation in the Field of Earth Observation.

An agreement on cooperation in the Field of Plant Quarantine is also on the cards.

Molobi said South Africa considers the Russian Federation as an important strategic partner in the promotion of development, socio-economic and political progress, as well as stability in the globalising world.

"Given the similarities of development challenges in South Africa and Russia, especially poverty and inequality, quality of education and health, challenges of HIV and AIDS, it is expected that the two Presidents may reinforce the importance of a development partnership for MDG promotion between the two countries."

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk who will be part of the delegation to Russia hopes to tackle issues such as direct air links, visa processes and the marketing of South Africa as a tourist destination.

In a recent statement, van Schalkwyk said Russia is one of the fastest growing outbound tourist markets in the world. In 2009, South Africa saw 10 214 arrivals from Russia.

"We would like to make sure that we extend our co-operation in the field of tourism."

Russia is bidding to host the Soccer World Cup in 2018 and South Africa would share its experiences with them, he says.

The two countries would also deliberate on the tourism co-operation agreement that was signed in 1998, but was never implemented.

"As such, discussions will be held between the two countries on how to revive the signed agreement," said van Schalkwyk.

South Africa and Russia which emerged from a decade of post-Soviet economic and political turmoil to reassert itself as a world power, already share smooth bilateral cooperation.

On the economic front, Russia is South Africa's 44th export destination, 31st source of imports and total trade amounted to R5.1 billion.

SA foreign direct investment in Russia was estimated at US$ 325 million in August 2009 mainly in mining, metals, financial services, wood products, and chemicals, while Russia's was estimated at US$1.209 billion.

Russia which has highly skilled people in science and technology, offers huge opportunities for trade and investment partnerships especially in minerals energy, agriculture, education and skills development among others.