The Board of Investment of Sri Lanka hosted last week a high-powered visiting delegation from South Africa led by Hon. Prof Hlenginwe Mkhize, MP, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and including H.E Geoff Doidge, Ambassador of South Africa in Sri Lanka, Mr. Renier Schoeman, A.N.C National Coordinator and former Minister and 30 officials of the ANC and entrepreneurs from South Africa. The South African delegation was interested in exploring the possibility of investment in Sri Lanka including joint ventures with Sri Lankan companies.
The meeting was an opportunity for the BOI to brief the visiting delegation on investment opportunities in Sri Lanka and to answer some of the queries of individual South African investors. In addition the Deputy Minister of Economic Development of South Africa also shared her Government’s own experience in developing and modernizing South Africa’s infrastructure.
The visiting South African delegation represented a wide range of sectors, including the construction industry, transportation, hospitality, management consulting, engineering and architects, engineering services, agriculture, game parks, IT, telecommunication and software development.
Dr. Nihal Samarappuli, Executive Director (Research and Policy Advocacy) briefed the South African visitors on all aspects on investment in Sri Lanka particularly on the liberal business environment of the country.
The BOI delegation also included Executive Director (Investment) Mrs. Gowri Rajapaksa Executive Director (Mega projects) Shivan de Silva, Director (Media & Publicity) Dilip S.Samarasinghe, Director (Research & Policy Advocacy) Mrs Champika Malalgoda and other officers of the Board.
Sri Lanka has Investment Protection Agreements with 27 nations and Double Taxation Agreements with 38 countries. In addition, the Free Trade Agreements which Sri Lanka enjoys with both India and Pakistan provides access to a market of over 1 billion, which could be accessed by South Africa enterprises who set up investment projects in Sri Lanka.
The BOI presentation covered some of the large scale infrastructure projects which the country is undertaking, including the new BOI Export Processing Zones at Trincomalee and at Sooriyawewa that will supplement the existing 12 Export Processing Zones operated by the BOI. The South African delegation was also briefed on the Strategic Development Projects Act which is geared to facilitate projects that would change the economic and social landscape of the country.
Also covered were Sri Lanka’s Thrust Sectors which are Priority sectors in investment identified by the Government and on the role of the BOI in promoting, approving and facilitating investment.
Currently enterprises from an estimated 54 countries have already invested in Sri Lanka in nearly 2000 projects. Their contribution to the economy is evident in so far as 85 per cent of all Sri Lanka’s industrial exports are generated by BOI enterprises. About 65% of Sri Lanka’s FDI has been generated in the last 4-5 years, which is proof of the growing confidence internationally the country enjoys since the end of the conflict.
What the South African delegation was most interested was to foster South-South linkages where Sri Lanka and South Africa, which are both developing countries can share their knowledge in key economic sectors for mutual economic benefit. South Africa, the Minister added, has considerable experience in mining technology as well as expertise in the financial sector.
The Minister also added that the hosting of the 2010 football World Cup resulted in considerable capacity building for the South African construction industry, making it well suited to undertake large scale infrastructure projects overseas. Hence South African companies were engaged in major construction work in Brazil.
To take the meeting forward, the South African delegation suggested that dedicated fora should be established, bringing together expertise from both countries to deal with energy and with infrastructure.
At the meeting several individual South African Companies expressed their interest in identifying partners to set up joint ventures with Sri Lankan companies. The purpose was to make use of Sri Lanka’s strategic position at the crossroads of international shipping lines, taking into consideration the relative proximity of Sri Lanka to South Africa.
This would make the island an attractive base of operation for South African enterprises, of which many are SME. The South African delegation added their visit to Sri Lanka had proved to be most friendly and fruitful and thanked all Sri Lankan institutions for their support and co-operation. There are currently ongoing discussions for a major South African project in the agriculture sector.