South Africa and Cuba are looking into deepening and broadening their long-standing bilateral relations, says South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa.

He said this here Wednesday during discussions with visiting Cuban Vice-President Salvador Valdes Mesa, who also called on President Jacob Zuma and met Cuban doctors currently working in one of the hospitals in Gauteng Province.

Ramaphosa said the relationship between the two countries is solidarity in practice. I can say without any doubt that South Africa and Cuba have a very special relationship. At a political level, it is a relationship that was born in struggle and we do a lot of things even at a social level,” he added.

The support that we continue to get from the government and people of Cuba just continues to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. We get support from Cuba at the health level. The co-operation between our countries at the health level is quite deep and extensive. We have a lot of Cuban doctors in South Africa who are doing absolutely fantastic work. We have also got South African students who are studying in Cuba.”

He said the two countries are also looking at deepening and broadening relations at a commercial and economic level. Through such relations, the government is able to expose South African companies to Cuba so that they can explore opportunities that are available for both countries.

To date, the two countries have signed more than 30 bilateral agreements comprising vast areas of co-operation in education, defence, science and technology, agriculture, health services, infra-structure development, housing, water and sanitation, health co-operation, human settlements technical exchange, water resource management and water supply and public works technical assistance.

Under the auspices of the 2012 Agreement, about 2,903 South African students, including the 80 students on the scholarship programme, are currently receiving medical training in Cuba.

So far, approximately 520 South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds have graduated as medical doctors, providing much needed primary healthcare services to their local communities.

Thirty four Cuban engineers are currently working in South Africa under the auspices of the South Africa-Cuba Agreement on Co-operation in the fields of Water Resource Management and Water Supply, signed on Sept 9, 2013.

Vice-President Mesa said bilateral relations of the two countries are historic but they are being expanded into other areas of work.

He said Cuba and South Africa had co-operated a lot in the medical field, about 400 Cuban medical specialist are currently working in different health facilities in South African communities.

The Vice President said the agreement that both countries have in the health field will have a huge impact in the health system. In the coming year, 2018, about 700 South African students will arrive in South Africa to complete their final year of the medicine training and to start providing medical services, he added.

He said he had come to South Africa with his delegation to explore possible new areas of co-operation, mainly in trading and economic activities.

There is no doubt that there are experiences that we can learn from South Africa, such as companies law, financial intelligence, and other fields such as renewables where important cooperation could be done, he said.