|Address by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma to the Business Forum of South Africa and Sultanate of Oman on the occasion of the State Visit to the Sultanate of Oman Muscat, Oman, 16 November 2011
Honourable Ministers responsible for trade and commerce from South Africa and Oman,
Honourable business delegations of South Africa and Oman,
Ladies and gentlemen,
“Salam Ali kum” (peace be upon you!);
The continent of Africa and the Sultanate of Oman have relations that date back to ancient times when traders from both regions were using the maritime routes along the Indian Ocean rim to trade their goods.
During those years, there were no national borders defining sovereign States as we know them today.
This meant that the maritime traders used natural phenomena such as the seasonal winds to steer their ships to their destinations, in search of products that were in demand in their own communities or finding markets for the goods they had in abundance.
While Oman had a scarcity of certain food resources due to the harsh local climate during summer times, Africa had an abundance of agricultural and other resources.
It was thus natural for the two regions to have become economically interdependent.
Much later, many other nations from around the world also discovered the lucrative trade routes that run along our shores that enabled trade between East and West.
Within this context, both South Africa and Oman’s strategic geographic locations were always of key importance to the global trade community.
We are therefore pleased to be gathered here today to meet representatives from both the South African and Omani business communities.
But most importantly, I am truly pleased to be in Oman on a State Visit, at the kind invitation of His Majesty the Sultan.
I was pleased to have had an opportunity to discuss a number of critical issues with His Majesty yesterday, including the need to strengthen our political and economic ties.
As you would be aware, South Africa and the Sultanate of Oman maintain a very strong bilateral relationship and have done so since bilateral relations were first established in 1994.
It is telling that former President Mandela paid two visits to Oman and has good memories of his visits and his interaction with His Majesty the Sultan.
I hope my visit will lead to further high-level exchanges between the two countries, the importance of which should not be underestimated.
We had very fruitful discussions on many issues with His Majesty. South Africa and Oman have similar views on many of the recent developments in North Africa and the Middle East.
We agreed that regular consultations should be held in order to explore ways in which we could contribute to peace and security.
In our review of bilateral relations, we have agreed that the inaugural meeting of the South Africa-Omani Partnership Forum, which was held in Muscat at the end of October 2011, had been successful and is an important mechanism to elevate our relations to a higher level.
We also discussed ways in which particularly our economic relations could be strengthened.
This meeting of this South Africa-Omani Business Forum will contribute a great deal to furthering our objectives of seeing a growth in investments and trade between the two nations.
As we have experienced since our arrival on Monday evening in the beautiful city of Muscat, the relations between South Africa and Oman are excellent in every respect and we share a very special bond of friendship.
It is vital, however, that we work very hard to translate the close political ties and friendship between the two countries into mutual economic benefit.
My message to this forum is very simple:
We, as South Africa, are serious when we say we wish to deepen and broaden our economic ties with Oman through stronger trade and investments between the two countries.
We believe that there are several lucrative opportunities where our two economies can complement each other.
Our role as government is merely to create the correct and enabling environment for you as the “traders” to do the business.
We will do our best to create that enabling environment so that you can do business together.
We see great potential in the Omani economy.
Over the past 41 years, Oman’s economy has developed at a rapid pace as a consequence of the visionary and prudent policies introduced by His Majesty the Sultan and the people of Oman.
The country has prioritized major infrastructure projects that will further enhance its future economic growth such as in the areas of airport, railway, road and harbor developments.
We will later today see the developments at the Sohar Industrial Port and Freezone, which is important for us given South African investments in the port, but also the potential for future cooperation.
We realize that Oman presents an abundance of opportunities for South African businesses to get involved, or for our country’s expertise to make a contribution.
At the same time, South Africa also offers many lucrative opportunities for growth and investments. Currently, our New Growth Path policy framework encourages investments in six areas.
These are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.
There are also opportunities for collaboration in the areas of education and training, science and technology and agriculture.
Both South Africa and Oman can, for example, benefit from joint scientific research that could lead to innovation, thereby contributing to economic growth and addressing the socio-economic imperatives of both nations.
We urge you, therefore, as the two business communities, to take advantage of the opportunities presented today by both countries.
Let us work together to grow our two economies, use our vast natural resources and create the much needed job opportunities and a better life for all our peoples.
Before I conclude, let me thank Oman for this nation’s contribution to peace, friendship and stability at home and with its neighbours.
Oman promotes international economic and social development.
We wish to commend this nation on this and offer our support in international arena on various issues.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We wish you all the best with your deliberations. As the outcome of this seminar, we are hoping not only to have established new commercial partners amongst our business communities, but also to have revived the importance of the ancient trade routes along our shores!
Let me take this opportunity to thank His Majesty, the Government and people of the Sultanate of Oman for a warm welcome and magnificent hospitality.
This has been a wonderful visit, we look forward to deepening cooperation building on this visit.
I thank you.