South Africa cancels Cuban debt, offers new credit

* Cuban debt of $137 million forgiven

* Credits aim at revitalizing stagnant trade

By Esteban Israel

HAVANA, Dec 7 (BestGrowthStock) – South Africa on Tuesday canceled
approximately $137 million in debt owed by Cuba and offered $30
million in fresh credits in hopes of reviving trade with the
Communist-run Caribbean island.

The debt cancellation was signed on Tuesday during a
three-day visit to Cuba by South African President Jacob Zuma.

“Essentially we are starting from scratch and we are hoping
this will be a stepping stone to better things,” South African
trade ministry official Pumla Ncapayi told Reuters.

Trade between the two countries has been practically
nonexistent for years because of the debt issue, while South
Africa does pay an unknown amount for Cuban doctors working in
the country and has a joint project to produce vaccines.

Cuba last reported its foreign debt as $17.8 billion in
2007 and is currently going through a financial crisis that has
left it hard pressed to obtain credits and meet obligations.

Zuma arrived at the head of a delegation that included some
50 representatives from various businesses interested in
investing and trading with Cuba.

The official Cuban media reported the sectors included
mining, energy, tourism and biotechnology.

“We took the strategic decision to cancel this debt. It is
a step toward reinvigorating our commercial relations with
Cuba,” Trade Minister Robert Davies told reporters in Havana.

Ncapayi said her country hoped to export agricultural
machinery and supplies to Cuba as President Raul Castro tries
to develop the sector and reduce food imports.
(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by James
Dalgleish)

South Africa cancels Cuban debt, offers new credit