South Africa has welcomed Tuesday’s conclusion of nuclear talks with Iran, saying it wanted to resume trade with the Middle Eastern country as soon as possible. South Africa relied on Iran as the biggest supplier of oil before sanctions on Tehran halted the trade in 2012.
Iran and the P5+1 group of world countries finalized their nuclear talks on Tuesday, paving the way for the removal of sanctions. “If sanctions are lifted on oil imports, that’s a win-win situation and we would like to benefit from that,” South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said in Pretoria.
She said her country’s refiners suffered great losses from the sanctions on Iran which exported about 70,000 barrels per day of oil to Africa’s largest economy. South Africa’s energy company, Sasol, imported about 12,000 bpd or 20% of its oil needs for refining from Iran. It also owned 50% of the National Petrochemical Company of Iran’s Arya polymer plant from which it divested under pressure. The biggest South African buyer of the Iranian crude oil, however, was Engen which is majority-owned by the Malaysian national oil company Petronas.
South Africa relied on Iran for about 29% of its oil imports, according to the US Energy Information Administration. The country consumes about 550,000 barrels of oil per day, of which 370,000 bpd is imported. After the sanctions on the Islamic Republic, South Africa turned to Saudi Arabia to replace the Iranian oil, with Nigeria and Angola being other significant suppliers.
Iran and South Africa have forged close political and economic ties since the fall of the apartheid regime. Africa's largest telecoms operator MTN has a 49% stake in Irancell, which provides services to 33 million clients.
Energy Minister of South Africa Tina Joemat-Pettersson visited Tehran in April and discussed purchases of crude oil, oil products, gas, and petrochemicals from Iran as well as participation in the country’s energy projects.