South Africa's deputy president will visit Iran to explore opportunities for co-operation in the energy sector with a view to attracting investment into a refinery Pretoria is planning to build, his office said on Thursday, Press TV reported.
South Africa is considering building an oil refinery that will process Iranian crude to bolster its petrol supply and reduce its dependence on foreign companies.
Pretoria has said it will resume oil imports from Tehran "tomorrow" if sanctions are lifted but without its own refinery, it would have to rely on foreign oil companies who own refineries in Africa's most developed economy.
South Africa relied on Iran as the biggest supplier of oil before sanctions on Tehran in 2012 dried up exports of about 380,000 barrels per day to the country.
Officials in Tehran said in September that an initial agreement has been signed between the two countries for crude oil sales, pending the lifting of sanctions on Tehran for exports to resume.
They also emphasized that South Africa is ahead of other countries in the race to resume oil imports from Iran.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to pay a courtesy call on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of parliament Ali Larinjani among other officials, his office said in a statement, Reuters reported.
"Ramaphosa's delegation will also explore opportunities for the co-operation in the energy sector with a view of attracting investment into South African refinery and shipping capacity and for an exchange of technology and skills in the energy sectors," his office said.
Plans for the new refinery are at an early stage, and estimated cost or time frame for construction have not yet been made public.
South Africa has been diversifying its crude sources after the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Iran, its former top supplier.
The country's Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) has said it is seeking to import 24 million barrels of oil a year from Iraq to boost its reserves in what would be South Africa's first crude imports from Baghdad for more than a decade.