Vietnamese firms should be proactive in boosting exports to the promising African and Middle Eastern markets, a seminar heard in HCM City on June 12.

Together, the two regions have 70 countries with a population of more than 1.2 billion and a huge demand for all kinds of goods, especially consumer goods, offering great potential for Vietnamese exports, said Pham Trung Nghia, deputy director of the Middle East, Africa , West and South Asia Markets Department, said.

African countries need consumer goods, food and foodstuff, machinery, and drugs while the Middle East needs food and foodstuff, agricultural produce, seafood, and consumer goods, he said, adding that Vietnam is capable of meeting all these needs.

"Many Vietnamese products have won trust among African consumers and the Middle East , with its high per capita GDP, has high purchasing power and payment capability," he said.

He noted that Vietnam 's trade with Africa and the Middle East has risen sharply in recent years, reaching 4.3 billion USD and 9.6 billion USD respectively last year compared to 3.49 billion USD and 6.6 billion USD in 2012.

Vietnamese investment in African countries has increased recently, mainly in telecom and oil and gas, and many companies plan to set up factories to process cashew and timber in Africa , he said.

Many African and Middle-Eastern firms too have invested in Vietnam in many sectors including industrial processing, wholesale, retail, information technology, oil refining, infrastructure development, dairy farming, and steel.

Despite the potential, a lack of information about each other as well as differences in culture, religion, and business practices have prevented trade with the two regions from fulfilling their potential, the seminar heard.

Besides, there are still risks Vietnamese companies face while doing business with them, including payment issues, Nghia said.

To avoid this, payment should be made by banks using letters of credit and exporters should negotiate with importers at least 30 percent advance payment, he said.

Since each country in the two regions has its own import regulations, enterprises should study the markets carefully, delegates said.

Besides, food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics exported to the markets must have Halal certification, they said.

Bui Thi Thanh An, deputy head of the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency in HCM City, said Vietnam has diplomatic relations with all African and Middle Eastern countries, creating favourable conditions to boost exports as well as investment.

Vietnam 's main exports to Africa and the Middle East are agricultural produce, mobile phones, computers and accessories, seafood, coffee, garment and textile, footwear, and pepper.

It imports crude oil, copper, liquefied gas, feedstock for plastic, cashew, and wood.

The seminar was organised by the agency and department.-VNA