Sri Lanka and Seychelles cement ties with business forum in Colombo
Wholesale fish market Sri Lanka Colombo and Victoria, Colombo and Victoria recently signed a twinning agreement that is expected to result in greater opportunities for cooperation such as fisheries and tourism. (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Trade between Seychelles and Sri Lanka looks set to take off following the conclusion of the Seychelles Sri-Lanka trade and investment forum held in Colombo on Wednesday.
According to a press statement issued by the Seychelles Investment Board (SIB) interest in doing business with the Seychelles was high, with over 150 Sri Lankan company representatives from a wide range of sectors including from the food and beverage industry, furniture, building materials, rubber and plastics products in attendance at the forum.
The event was jointly organized by the Export Development Board (EDB) of Sri Lanka and the SIB.
The forum in Colombo comes seven months after a similar Seychelles-Sri Lanka business forum was organized in the Indian Ocean archipelago’s capital of Victoria in January 2014, during which businessmen from both countries were urged to explore the possibility of forging lasting partnerships and joint ventures in specific areas for the benefit of both countries’ economies.
The January business forum saw the participation of over a hundred Seychellois business entrepreneurs and 26 business organizations from Sri Lanka.
Both countries face similar challenges as developing island nations while also experiencing growth in new sectors such as construction and ICT. The two countries’ respective capital cities, Colombo and Victoria, recently signed a twinning agreement that is expected to result in greater opportunities for cooperation such as fisheries and tourism.
Sri Lankan business in Seychelles reports better than expected result
According to the SIB statement, the CEOs of the Sri Lankan firms which have recently started operations in Seychelles – such as the Bank of Ceylon and Sri Lanka’s low cost airline, Mihin Lanka – gave presentations to the forum, with news of better-than-expected preliminary results. Mihin Lanka Chief Executive Nishantha Ranatunga reportedly confirmed that the national carrier would soon be boosting the Seychelles route to three flights per week.
Mihin Lanka started direct flights between Seychelles and Sri Lanka in November last year.
4R-MRD Airbus A321-231 Mihin Lanka Landing at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport Dhaka (Faisal Akram/Flickr) It was revealed at the Sri Lanka - Seychelles business forum this week that Mihin Lanka is expected to increase its flights to Seychelles. Photo License: (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Seychelles Minister for Finance Trade and Investment Pierre Laporte was leading the Seychelles delegation to Sri Lanka which also included SIB’s Chief Executive Rupert Simeon as well as representatives of various sectors like fishing, tourism and other private sector businesses.
Addressing the forum, Laporte said he was impressed with Sri Lanka’s development and added that he saw ample opportunities in key sectors such as tourism, industries, fisheries, renewable energy, financial services and agriculture.
The Seychelles delegation at the forum led by the Minister for Finance, Trade and Investment, Pierre Laporte also included the Seychelles High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, Waven William, Principal Secretary for Department of Tourism, Anne Lafortune, CEO of the Seychelles Investment Board Rupert Simeon, CEO of IDC Glenny Savy, Aubrey Lesperance from Seychelles Fishing Authority, representatives of the Seychelles Trading Company and of the private sector as well as Roy Fonseka, the Sri Lanka's Honorary Consul in Seychelles. (Export Development Board of Sri Lanka -EDB) Photo License: CC-BY
According to the statement, Laporte also visited some large multinational corporations in Sri Lanka, including Nestlé Lanka and Hayleys plc.
Hayleys is one of Sri Lanka’s largest companies, involved in twelve different industries including supply support to the oil and gas exploration industry, tourism, agriculture, waste collection and freight forwarding.
“During this meeting, discussions included the possible use of Sri Lanka's Freeport for transit of goods coming to Seychelles that could increase the frequency for container vessels from Sri Lanka. Possible logistical support to companies exploring for the oil and gas in Seychelles' EEZ [was] discussed,” read the statement.
Gateway to an untapped continent
After meeting with Sri Lankan Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Laporte invited Sri Lanka to use Seychelles as a platform to gain access to the virtually untapped African continent with trade and investment, according to a report from Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror.
The minister encouraged the potential for Sri Lanka to use Seychelles as a stepping stone to gain access to the 19-nation free trade zone known as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
“We command a strategic location in Eastern Africa, South of India and the Gulf countries and the Seychelles is very accessible with a stable economy to attract investors,” said the Seychelles Minister at the forum.
|Seychelles Minister Pierre Laporte presenting a coco de mer (the largest nut in the world that grows naturally on the Seychelles islands of Praslin and Curieuse) as a gift to the Sri Lankan Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen (Export Development Board of Sri Lanka -EDB) Photo License: CC-BY|
A stepping stone to South Asia
Meanwhile, Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen in turn invited the Seychelles to make use of the free trade agreements Sri Lanka holds with India and Pakistan to gain access to trade with the South Asian subcontinent.
“There are many avenues. This is mainly a gateway of synergies for the two countries. Sri Lanka is the hub with which the Seychelles can access the 1.5 billion South Asians,” he said.
According to the Sri Lankan minister, bilateral trade between Seychelles and Sri Lanka reached $3.7 million in 2013, with the main exports from Sri Lanka being tea, fishing vessels, sausages, while importing a few selected items such as spices from Seychelles. It is a figure that Bathiudeen believes has the potential to grow enormously.
“In the future, Sri Lanka believes that gems and jewellery, furniture, other types of ocean vessels, seafood and plastic products, to have strong market potential in the Seychelles,” he added.
In spite of Seychelles and Sri Lanka having established diplomatic ties on October 3, 1988, bilateral ties and trade between the two Indian Ocean islands have only seen a steady improvement in recent years following exchange visits between the heads of states of the two countries.
After paying his first state visit to Sri Lanka in August 2010, the President of the Seychelles, James Michel, was certain that Seychelles and Sri Lanka had a lot to offer each other.
Seychelles President James Michel went to Sri Lanka on a state visit in August 2012 and he also attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka in November last year.
Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajapaksa undertook a second visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago in June this year following his state visit in June last year.
Seychelles President James Michel (R) welcomes Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on his second visit to Seychelles on June 27. (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY