Within a single time zone, yet 7000 miles apart: South Africa and Ukraine discover each other through trade

What can two countries have in common apart from sharing the same time zone while being divided by almost 7000 miles apart and being in two different continents? Ukraine and the Republic of South Africa view each other with curiosity, since the countries have vastly differing geography, climate and cultural backgrounds that may seem too exotic to each other.  

Ukraine is a country located in the geographical centre of the wider European continent, which has been a bloody battlefield for invading armies in the past world wars, a famous “granary of Europe” and a victim of the largest economic decline of the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukraine is now patiently building its destiny against increasing odds of geopolitical competition, standing up to an increasingly aggressive Russia.

The backbone of the Ukrainian economy are its agro-industrial, metallurgical and machine-building sectors, a developed railway and port infrastructure enabling the country to reap the benefits of its geographical location of the eastern doorstep to the European Union. A Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area as a core element of the Association Agreement with the EU, provides Ukraine with unprecedented access to the EU Internal Market, not only in terms of tariff liberalization but also in terms of regulatory convergence, removing potential non-tariff barriers. Ukraine is keen to complement this relationship with a network of bilateral free deals with its neighbours and other prospective markets, from Turkey to Israel, hoping to spur its economic development through free trade.

For this and other reasons, the Ukrainian business and society alike are fascinated by South Africa. Historical parallels such as the struggle against colonial rule, a pride in rich cultural heritage combined with linguistic and cultural tolerance can quickly help build bridges in the hearts of prospective business partners. Another strong indicator of unexplored trade potential are disappointingly low figures for bilateral trade ties – the South African – Ukrainian trade  constituted USD116mn compared to USD86 bn of total South African exports and USD47bn of Ukrainian exports. Sectoral patterns of trade indicate strong prospects in areas such as Pharmaceuticals, Agricultural machinery, Port and Maritime equipment and select Agrifood commodities.

This is precisely what a Ukrainian trade mission, scheduled on April 13-18, aims to explore in depth. This is the first business visit, organized by the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of South Africa with the support of Ukrainian Business and Trade Association (UBTA) on behalf of the Ukrainian exporter community, and led by the Ukrainian Trade Representative, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine Mr. Taras Kachka and the Chairman of the Ukrainian National Food Safety Authority Ms. Vladyslava Magaletska. The mission is a part of a concerted effort by the Ukrainian Government and Ukrainian export-oriented business community to expand the geography of Ukraine’ international trade and unearth considerable commercial prospects with an economic powerhouse on the tip of the African continent.

The trade mission will present opportunities to do business with Ukraine in sectors ranging from Mechanical Engineering and Metallurgy, to Pharmaceuticals, Agrifood commodities and Processed food, as well as renewable energy technologies. The entrepreneurs are keen to visit the key South African economic hubs such as Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria, establishing direct and lasting ties with regional chambers of commerce and individual companies through a series of business-to-business meetings and the country presentations.

“I hope that the mission will become a stepping stone toward a more sustained trade relationship which will mutually reinforce the positions of both countries as emerging regional economic hubs”- mentioned Ambassador of Ukraine to SA. Ms. Liubov Abravitova.