Governments of South Africa (SA) and Sri Lanka (SL) are exploring the possibility of resuming flights between the two countries.
Geoff Doidge, SA’s High Commissioner to SL told this reporter that a draft memorandum of understanding in this regard is due to be signed
Previously, in the late 1990s the national carrier flew to Durban, but scrapped those flights as they proved to be unprofitable.
Doidge however attributed that misdemeanour to Colombo choosing Durban as its point of destination then. Johannesburg, SA’s commercial hub would have had been a better choice, he said.
Johannesburg was also described as Sub Saharan Africa’s air hub, while Dubai was pointed out as the region’s other air hub.
In turn, SA’s national carrier South African Airways may seek flights to Colombo via the Maldives, Maldives is known for its exotic beaches and may be an attraction to the upmarket South African tourist, said Doidge.
The national airline flies daily to India and so does India’s to SA, he said.
Doidge further said that from a tourism point of view Sri Lanka had a lot to offer SA. “Your wildlife is different (‘for example your elephant species are different to that of ours,’ he said), SL’s cultural sites, Buddhism, tea gardens, beaches, gems and jewellery and such like are all tourist attractions to South Africans,” he said.
SL has its own uniqueness to offer SA even its eco-tourism is unique to that of SA’s, added Doidge.
He also pointed out that SL and SA are the only two countries in the world to practice Roman-Dutch law, which he said was another promotional tool for the island.
South Africans currently holiday in the West, India and South-East and East Asia, said Doidge.
He further said that efforts are being made to get SA companies in the manufacturing sector to set-up shop here so that they could export their products to India, taking advantage of the free trade agreement that exists between the two countries. Doidge however refused to go into details.
Trade between SA and SL is in the low US$ 50 million range in SA’s favour, however Doidge said that SL’s biscuits and rubber, plastic and coir products fared well in a recent SA trade fair. “Ceylon Tea” is a well known brand in SA, it’s used for blending with the local teas, he said.
Doidge also said that rambuttans and mangosteens may also have a market in SA, sub Saharan Africa’s biggest economy.
He said that previous trade missions from SL may not have had been successful because they may not have had tapped the right contacts. SA with a 50 million population enjoyed a per capita GDP income of US$ 5,684 in 2009. It’s also recognized as a hub market for countries in the vicinity.
Negotiations are also on to import SA’s sugar while this sub-Saharan African country also does export coal and ethanol-for the local spirits industry. He said that a large number of Sri Lankan bankers while a company involved in logistics services have set-up shop in SA.
On SA’s stance vis-à-vis SL’s conduct of its war against the LTTE? Dodge said that SA’s position is that that matter will have to be taken up once the LLRC report is out. He further said that the human rights sessions in Geneva has no mandate on SL.There is a strong Tamil lobby with interest in SL active in SA, he said (see also this newspaper’s last week’s business pages).
13 Fold Increase
Johannesburg Airport during the apartheid days had only five airlines operating, but it now has 65, a South African told this reporter.
Stuart Young (65), Chairman, Cargills Quality Confectioneries (Pvt.) Ltd. said that the airport has undergone expansion programmes about twice or thrice in recent times.