Exports to South Africa are seeing favourable conditions to increase this year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Africa , Western and South Asia Department.

South African demand for imports is forecast to be maintained this year as the Government is increasing public investment to reduce the unemployment rate, it said.

" South Africa is now Vietnam 's largest importer in Africa ," said head of the department Ly Quoc Hung.

Vietnam exported 488 million USD worth of goods including gemstones and precious metals, footwear, garments and textiles, coffee and rice to the market last year.

The growth rate of Vietnamese exports to South Africa has been higher than imports for many years, providing a trade surplus for Vietnam . Last year also marked the year of Vietnam 's highest trade surplus with South Africa at 335 million USD, a 33 percent surge against 2009.

Two-way trade also hit a record 640 million USD, up 27 percent year-on-year. In a move to foster exports, the department is drafting a plan to construct a trade promotion centre in South Africa , Hung said, adding that the plan will be submitted to the ministry for approval late this year.

"We will also invite South African importers to participate in trade fairs and exhibitions to Vietnam to seek new trade opportunities," he said.

The ministry is also considering supporting key businesses to promote their exports to the African market. Under a project which was agreed late last year, 10 companies which have already began accessing the African market will receive financial support in trade promotion activities this year.

They will also be provided with trade policies, business opportunities and lists of potential business in countries across the continent./.