Japan and South Africa agreed at their foreign ministers’ meeting in Pretoria on Saturday to strengthen post-pandemic business ties, with many Japanese companies looking to enter the emerging market as a key gateway to the whole African continent.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in his talks with Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister of international relations and cooperation, that Japanese companies have resumed full-fledged operations in South Africa following a suspension due to the pandemic, the Foreign Ministry said.

The ministers agreed to convene a forum at an early date to spur bilateral investment, the ministry said.

Some 160 companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. have bases in resource-rich South Africa, which accounts for more than 20% of Africa’s gross domestic product, according to ministry data.

Motegi is visiting South Africa as the third stop on his African tour, also including Tunisia, Mozambique and Mauritius. South Africa holds the presidency of the African Union this year and is Africa’s sole member in the Group of 20 framework.

With South Africa occupying a rotating nonpermanent seat of the U.N. Security Council for the 2019-2020 term, the ministers also agreed on working to reform the world body’s 15-member decision-making organ, the ministry said.

Motegi also received a telephone call from South African President during his stay and told him that Japan wants to closely coordinate with the country to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific to ensure the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade in the region, the ministry said.

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