Remarks by Minister GNM Pandor on the occasion of the Dinner commemorating 25 Years of Diplomatic Relations between South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, 1 October 2019
Your Excellency Ambassador Mahash Saeed Salem Mahash Alhameli,
Dean of the Arab Missions, His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Lemine Ould Hanani
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and members of the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Assalamualykum WaRahmatullah (You are greeted in the mercy of God)
I am truly honoured and grateful to share this evening with Your Excellency and the distinguished guests as we celebrate 25 years of the fruitful relations between South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. I wish to take this opportunity to express best wishes to you and the entire leadership of the United Arab Emirates, on behalf of President Ramaphosa, the Government and the People of South Africa on this auspicious occasion that serves as a crucial reminder of how far we have come as partners and how much we have achieved over the years.
Our partnership was premised right from inception on the notion of leveraging on both our economic potential to create a better world for our two peoples in a manner that would benefit those that share close ties with us.
We have since that time, invested a lot of effort and energy in preparing the ground and cultivating the seeds of mutually beneficial economic exchanges that have over the years served to strengthen our cooperation and partnership.
It is crucial to recall that the firm foundation that carries this strong partnership was laid by the close ties of friendship and trust enjoyed by the founding fathers of our two nations, the late President Nelson Mandela and His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The two Statesmen, both born in 1918, not only shared a special bond of friendship, but also remarkable characteristics seen through their spiritualism, vision, determination and hard work, as well as generosity at home and abroad, which in turn ensured that they devoted their lives to the service of their peoples and the creation of a better world for all.
It is those ideals that continue to serve as a compass in the development and growth of our relations.
Our bilateral relations during the period 1995 and 2011, witnessed a significant number of high-level interaction between the leadership of our two countries that in turn enabled us to forge closer trade and investment relations.
The UAE opened itself to South Africa as a strategic export market in the Gulf Region, thereby creating space for our business to trade and establish partnerships that on the other hand elevated our bilateral economic partnership to a new high.
Total trade between our two countries stood at about R507 million in 1995. The period that followed witnessed rapid growth between our two sides. As of 2018, our total bilateral trade stood at R44.5 billion.
This growth in bilateral trade relations is a result of the firm and unwavering support provided by the leadership of the two sides. The frequent high-level contact between our leaders has been key in ensuring that the bottlenecks that could otherwise frustrate our cooperation and partnership are swiftly identified and addressed accordingly.
It is for this reason that we both saw it fit to establish a mechanism that would serve as a platform to monitor, gauge and guide our relations in November 2011, by the conclusion of the South Africa-UAE Joint Commission. Our relations have since that time become more focused, better structured and thereby allowing our two sides to coordinate and cooperate more strategically on key sectors of our economies.
We are appreciative of the confidence your country has in South Africa. The presence and growth of UAE companies in this country is reflective of the positive growth trajectory that our own companies are enjoying in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
We have about 200 registered South African companies in the UAE, ranging from construction, finance and IT services, to hospitality, retail and trading. Some of our notable companies operating in the banking and construction sector such as Standard Bank, First Rand, Nedbank Private Wealth and Group 5 have a presence in your country.
On the other hand, UAE investment presence in South Africa is equally significant. We continue with our commitment to ensuring that we both benefit from this partnership. While indications are that our bilateral relations stand on a firm footing, I believe that room to grow our strategic partnership still exists.
This should be done by way of increasing our cooperation and partnership on food security. We are determined to enhance trade in agricultural products, agro-processed and manufactured goods in accordance with our two countries’ food security priorities.
Our two sides ought to seriously consider expediting our planned cooperation on the blue economy. South Africa is fully appreciative of the expertise that the UAE possesses in this sector. As such we aim to direct our efforts in identifying targeted areas of collaboration and cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The UAE participated in the 1st Investment Conference hosted by President Ramaphosa in 2018. We sincerely hope that another delegation of your investors will avail themselves to participate in the 2019 2nd Investment Conference, which we trust will result in tangible outcomes. I wish to assure Ambassador that my Government stands ready to extend the much needed support to those investors in ensuring that they are able to actualise undertakings made during the conference.
South Africa is indeed grateful for the USD10 billion investment pledge announced by the UAE during the State Visit of President Ramaphosa to the UAE in 2018.
I look forward to the 3rd sitting of the SA-UAE Joint Commission, which we hope could take place in early 2020.
We furthermore are excited and keen to participate in the Dubai Expo in the coming year.
As we move forward, we do so determined to strengthen cultural and people-to-people interaction with the UAE, which in turn we hope will present South Africa as a top global tourism destination. My Government’s recent decision to introduce a visa waiver for ordinary passport holders from the UAE is evidence of our commitment to promote such cooperation.
We remain committed to engaging further on how to develop a program of action targeted at enhancing people-to-people exchanges as well as tourism flows between our two sides.
I am honoured to acknowledge that our strategic partnership has over the years evolved to move beyond the trade space but also to include cooperation at the multilateral level. South Africa and the UAE have a common approach on many challenges confronting the international community. The UAE’s support given to South Africa’s candidature for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council is indicative of our common aspirations to constructively contribute towards the embetterment of humanity.
We are equally appreciative of the support that the UAE gave us during our Chairship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. South Africa has found in the UAE, a valued partner to advance the objectives of the organisation further. We know that the UAE will lead the Association in a capable and focused manner when it takes over as Chair from South Africa later this month.
I wish to also express appreciation for the positive activism through which you personally pursue and conduct your interaction with all our key national, provincial and local government entities including business, which clearly demonstrates the vigour with which you, as the appointed representative of the Government of the UAE to South Africa, aim to attain the very goals set by our respective leaders.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude by once again expressing South Africa’s warmest wishes to the entire leadership and the people of the United Arab Emirates and to stress that, as our two peoples continue to walk this path towards growth and development, that we do so guided by the wisdom and undying spirit of the founding fathers of our two nations, the late President Nelson Mandela and His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road